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Myrtue Memorial Hospital History

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Myrtue Memorial Hospital History

Myrtue Memorial Hospital History

The dream of a bachelor farmer, the late Chris Myrtue, for a hospital in Shelby County was the catalyst that sparked a community fund drive and made Myrtue Memorial Hospital a reality.

Many Shelby County residents were surprised to learn that, upon his death, Chris Myrtue left his entire estate to finance a hospital to serve the county.

Although he had no wife or children, there were several relatives who were logical beneficiaries. Since Myrtue was not one to talk about himself, very few people knew of his plans.

Myrtue came to this country from Denmark early in his life. Those who knew him were aware that he denied himself luxuries and even some necessities that he could have easily afforded.

During his last summer in 1944, the 78-year-old Myrtue was critically ill in a private 17-bed hospital in Harlan. After he rallied in Aug. 1944, he made out his will leaving his entire estate to finance a county hospital.

Myrtue died in Jan. 1945. His will directed that the hospital for which he left money was to be called Myrtue Memorial Hospital. The intent of his will seemed to be that community would match his gift.

Soon after Myrtue’s death, the Myrtue farms totaling 779 acres were sold. After they were liquidated, the funds amounted to $200,000 and were invested in government bonds.

A suit was filed by Myrtue’s heirs contending that Myrtue’s wealth was more than enough to build a suitable hospital to serve the needs of the county. The court was asked to determine what the fair amount for building a hospital should be and to divide the remainder of the estate among the heirs.

The suit was settled in 1948 on a motion to dismiss which was made by attorneys for Myrtue’s executors. The presiding judge ruled that the court had no authority to change, limit or restrict the terms of the will, and that Myrtue has the right to give his entire estate to a hospital project, if that is what they wanted to do.

The court ruling spurred interest in having the county promote the hospital. In Dec. 1949, voters approved a $200,000 bond issue and taxes which would raise an additional $150,000.

Federal aid of $350,000, matching the county’s contribution, was approved late in 1950. With total funds amounting to $900,000, architects were hired to draw plans for a 50-bed hospital.

When bids were opened on Sept. 12, 1951, building costs had risen from earlier projections and an additional $150,000 was needed. The whirlwind “Operation Hospital” campaign that followed was a stirring climax to six and one-half years of frustrated hope, controversy and legal snares.

The Shelby County campaign was classic example of organization and democratic procedures. Following public meetings, which gave a green light to the fund drive, interested citizens formed a campaign committee.

The next 12 days were spent getting publicity and information about the fund drive out to the county’s 16,893 residents. Harlan’s two newspapers published stories, the drive committee mailed out 4,000 folders and the hospital’s trustees explained the situation to many groups.

On the eve of the opening of the campaign, 700 workers met in Harlan for instructions. There were at least 12 workers for each township and Harlan ward leaders obtained a solicitor for each block. Pledge cards were handed out allowing each contributor to make a three-year pledge. With donations ranging from 50 cents to over $8,000, the needed $150,000 was collected from throughout Shelby County in just two months.

Nearly 10 years after his death, Chris Myrtue’s dream was fulfilled with the opening of Myrtue Memorial Hospital on August 2, 1954 – the result of a truly community-wide effort.

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cafeteriaMyrtue Memorial Hospital Today

In the late 1980’s a motel south of the hospital was purchased paving the way to an addition of a physician’s clinic and expansion of the lab and radiology departments. Shelby County Medical Corporation (SCMC) was then incorporated in June of 1990.

This led to the opening of the new physician’s clinic in August of 1991 brining all Harlan physicians into one building and one operation, prior to 1992 there were two independent physician clinics in Harlan.

In January of 1983 the Avoca Medical Clinic opened its door as part of a joint effort between the hospital and the community of Avoca. Fundraising to equip and furnish the clinic was done by the Avoca community and the hospital took over ownership and operations.

G. E. Larson Elk Horn Kimballton Medical Clinic was opened in 1986.

The Shelby Medical Clinic began operation as a satellite to SCMC in 1992. Myrtue purchased the building from the Shelby Medical Group for $1 in 2007 and completely renovated the facility.

In 2005 all satellite clinics along with the Harlan Clinic were converted to hospital-based rural health clinics.

An addition satellite clinic was added after the 2011 purchase of an Earling building. This building was renovated and operations of the Earling Medical Clinic began in June of 2011.

Today between the Shelby County Medical Corporation and Myrtue Memorial Hospital medical staff includes. One general surgeon (MD); six family practice physicians (MD/DO); one internal medicine/pediatrician (MD); one podiatrist (DPM), seven family practice mid-levels (ARNP/PA); three CRNAs; six behavioral health providers (MSWs); 3 BSWs; and visiting specialist from the Omaha/Council Bluffs area to staff our specialty clinics.

In July of 1994 Shelby County and the Myrtue Memorial Hospital agreed to transfer Home Health and Public Health operations over to the hospital. Hospice services were added in 1996. In 2010 Home, Public Health, and Hospice was moved off campus 3 blocks south of the hospital.

The Prairie Rose Mental Health Center (PRMHC) was incorporated and began operations as an outpatient mental health center in 1993. In 2005 PRMHC was converted to our current Behavioral health which is now a department of the hospital. Behavior Health remains in a separate building on the hospital campus.

In 2005 the hospital converted to a critical access hospital which reduced the number of beds to 25. The same time all satellite clinics were converted to hospital-based rural health clinics. Shelby County Medical Corporation was converted to an organization whose purpose is to recruit and employ physicians. The result of these conversions was cost based reimbursement for the most hospital and physician clinic services for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

In August of 2010, the Petersen Family Wellness Center and Lewis Family Aquatic Center, a $10,000,000 facility opened. Owned and operated by Myrtue Memorial Hospital this new facility included Rehab services. Initial contribution by Myrtue of $2,000,000 led to over $7 million in community donations and grants.