The year 1947 was big for Pickens County--the concept of healthcare delivery in a hospital setting was begun. That year, the citizens of the county held a mass meeting with the objective of obtaining a hospital. From this meeting, a board of directors was named with one person elected from each voting precinct. Of this board, an executive committee was named consisting of W. E. Farrar, J. L. Wade, J. T. Fendley, C.S. Sterling and O. A. Stapp.
After much time and effort, these men produced a Certifi-cate of Incorporation, issued by the Secretary of State. During this period, a constitution and by-laws of the association were drawn and approved. Much thought and deliberation occurred on the location of Pickens County's new hospital. No firm decision could be reached and finally it was agreed to build two hospitals, one in Aliceville and one in Reform.
In order to meet Hill-Burton requirements for funding, the citizens voted a four mill hospital tax. For five years, meetings were held and preparation made for the construction of the two hospitals. During this planning phase, Thomas E. Bryant was appointed administrator-consultant. Later, Bryant became the administrator of both hospitals. In 1952, the A. C. Samford Construction Company was awarded the $532,511 contract to construct the two hospitals.
The long awaited day came in 1953 when the North Pick-ens County Hospital, Reform, and the South Pickens County Hospital, Aliceville, were opened. Twelve doctors made up the medical staff and its first officers were: Dr. W. E. Hill, president; Dr. R. K. Wilson, vice-president; and Dr. V. L. Ashcraft, secretary-treasurer. Miss Eva D. Huff served the association as director of nursing service for both facilities.
Three years later, it became evident that additional revenue was needed to maintain the hospital. The citizens again asked to tax themselves and voted a 1/2 cent sales tax to assist the financial operations of the two hospitals and other health related needs of the county.
As time progressed, it became more and more difficult to staff the two hospitals with professional personnel, and the cost of equipment and supplies for two facilities grew. In 1964, the governing body began to discuss the savings that could be realized if there were only one hospital. In 1967, a feasibility study was performed to determine what benefits could be derived from closing one of the hospitals and operating only one hospital. The study indicated that this was the best manner of health care delivery for the county. By operating only one hospital, a savings of approximately fifty percent could be realized.
In February 1971, the executive committee and members of the architectural firm of Pearson, Humphries and Jones of Montgomery held a joint meeting with the medical staff. The purpose of the meeting was to make recommendations for the future of the Pickens County Hospital Association. A decision was reached to close both hospitals and build one centrally located hospital to serve the entire county.
From this meeting, committees were formed, people were interviewed for their thoughts on the central hospital, state health officials were contacted, and work began in earnest. Many, many man hours went into the planning and development of the central hospital project.
The citizens of Pickens County faced another tax referendum in the fall of 1975. An additional 1/2 cent sales tax was presented to the people for their consideration in order to construct a new hospital. The bill was first passed through the legislature and senate of the State of Alabama. On Oct. 20, 1975, the people of the county voted at the polls for the new hospital.
Approximately 40 acres of land were purchased north of Carrollton in late 1975. Farmers Home Administration regulations were met to finance the new hospital with First Alabama Bank of Tuscaloosa having the construction financing. An Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $500,000 was received.
After almost ten years of concentrated effort, the new centrally located hospital finally began to take shape. Invitations to bid on the hospital were placed in the Pickens County Herald and bids were opened Dec. 21, 1976. Renfroe Construction Company of Fayette, Ala. was the low bidder at $2,654,986.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in January, 1977. From these ceremonies to date, much work has been put forth by all concerned. Doors opened Jan. 2, 1979. In 1986 the Pickens County Hospital Association leased the hospital to Pickens County Medical Center, which is a group of individuals comprised of the medial staff in the community. In March, 1988, a laundry and warehouse were constructed adjacent to the hospital. Also added in the same year was a communication tower for emergency service communication.
In 1988, the association asked the people of the county to pass another one cent tax to help pay for charity care at the institution. The tax passed by a large majority again proving the county's support for their hospital. From 1986 to 1998 Pickens County Medical Center experienced tremendous growth. Much of the technology used in the hospital now was purchased in the last ten years. The technology upgrade was a top priority of the Pickens County Medical Center Board of Directors. Their goal was to give the people of Pickens County technology that matched that of any hospital in Alabama.
Some of the major equipment upgrades were for a CT scanner, intensive care monitoring system, mammography, nuclear imaging equipment, new cardiology technology and a hospital-wide information system. Along with the upgrade in technology came a determined effort to increase the number of services the medical center offered so that getting healthcare could become more convenient for Pickens Countians. Among the services added were home healthcare in 1991, speech therapy in 1994, home medical equipment in 1995, outpatient specialists clinics over the last ten years, South Lamar Family Medical Center, which opened in 1994 in Millport, Ala., and HealthPlex, a wellness and fitness center on the medical center campus, which opened in 1997.
Another growth area has been in the number of physicians in the county. In 1986 there were six physicians practicing in the Pickens County area. Today there are 19 specialists on the medical staff practicing family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine and radiology. Many members of the medical staff serve on state or regional boards so they can have a role in improving healthcare in rural areas like Pickens County.