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Hospital History Comes From Care

When Oaklawn Hospital opened, the world was a much different place. Health care was far removed from today’s advancements and technology. When opened in 1925, Oaklawn only had 12 beds. It was housed in a private residential home, not even 5,000 square feet, with the third floor accommodating operating, emergency and maternity rooms, a baby’s bath and a nursery. The building was furnished with draperies, sheets and pillowcases made by area churches.

The village of Marshall, incorporated in 1887, didn’t have its first stoplight until 1926. The hospital opened five years before the Brooks Fountain was dedicated. The village population was somewhere between 4,200 and 5,000.

Over a span of more than eight decades, Oaklawn has grown and evolved along with Marshall and surrounding communities.

The original Oaklawn Hospital building had been a private residence, built in 1837 by Sidney Ketchum, who, with his brother George, founded Marshall in 1831. In 1859, Charles P. Dibble acquired the property and named it “Oaklawn” because of the beautiful white oaks that adorned the grounds. Through his son, William J. Dibble, and later his grandson, Charles L. Dibble, the property was deeded to the Ella E. M. Brown Charitable Circle Association, created as a legacy of Charles P. Brown and named in memory of his wife. It is still the legal name of Oaklawn Hospital today.

At the time it was formed, the Charitable Circle comprised a group of women from local churches and was formed after Brown bequeathed his home and $37,000 – a value of about $400,000 today – for the purpose of starting a hospital. This association sparked the hospital movement in Marshall. The old Dibble home, known as The Mansion House, was converted to a hospital and paid for by a fund drive from 1923-25 that raised $45,000.

Oaklawn treated its first patient on July 25, 1925. During the late 1920s and the 1930s, donations to the hospital allowed it to purchase and fund staff and new equipment. Gertrude B. Smith willed the eastern part of the hospital property in 1932. The hospital had become very overcrowded.

In 1948, a citizens committee recommended a fund drive to launch a campaign to build a new hospital. The fundraising effort, led by Samuel H. Leggitt and Harold C. Brooks, raised more than $350,000 and the new 47-bed hospital opened in September 1953. The building was expanded in 1962 to 69 beds.


The 1970s and 1980s

In 1971, Oaklawn Hospital was on the verge of closing. It was on its last provisional license and the Michigan Department of Public Health gave the hospital until August 1972 to develop a master plan to overcome some facility deficiencies. It was determined that $1.5 million was required to overcome those deficiencies. Oaklawn looked to the community to raise $500,000 to help fund the project.

Chaired by Ed Belcher and the late Chet Hemmingsen, the Decision Now Campaign raised nearly $700,000. The hospital was able to proceed with its plans to renovate and expand, and because of that it was granted a new license from the state. The 10,000-square-foot project was completed in 1974, adding a lobby, gift shop, another operating room, medical records offices, administrative offices, a pharmacy and increasing beds to 77.

In 1975, Oaklawn celebrated 50 years of service with the opening of the original 12,000-square-foot Wright Medical Building.

In 1980, the Intensive Care Unit opened and physicians began staffing the Emergency Department on weekends.

In 1988, the Wright Medical Building was expanded to 35,000 square feet.


The 1990s

In 1991, a $5 million, 35,000-square-foot hospital addition opened, improving the Emergency Department, Outpatient Surgery, Physical Therapy, Laboratory, Radiology, Medical/Surgical facilities, and Medical Records. It also added space for a permanent, advanced CT scanner at the hospital. Also in 1991, the 17-bed inpatient psychiatric center opened, increasing the number of licensed beds to 94, which is where it stands currently.

In 1994, a $1 million Birth Center renovation created six Labor-Delivery-Recovery-Postpartum (LDRP) rooms, making Oaklawn among the first hospitals in the area to allow the mother to stay in one room from labor until going home.

In 1995, Oaklawn became one of the first hospitals in the area to use wireless laptop computers at each bedside, a major advancement in clinician communication.

During the 1990s, the volume of outpatient services began to skyrocket. More procedures, including surgeries, could be done without an inpatient stay. During this decade, Oaklawn’s outpatient volume in Radiology, Laboratory, Cardiopulmonary and Outpatient Surgery increased each year.


The 21st century

Because of steady growth, Oaklawn’s expanding staff grew to 650 employees in 2004, becoming Marshall’s largest employer when long-time employment leaders, Eaton Corporation and State Farm Regional Insurance Offices continued to downsize.

In 2005, the hospital continued its commitment to outstanding facilities with the expansion of the Cronin Imaging Center, the Franke Family Laboratory, Registration and the Emergency Department.

Oaklawn also introduced a new service in the spring of 2005, when the Oaklawn Sleep Center opened its doors on the east end of the downtown retail district, across from the old Brooks Rupture Appliance Building.  The Sleep Center tests for and treats all types of sleep disorders.  Near the end of the year, Oaklawn became the first Michigan hospital west of Ann Arbor to purchase a da Vinci Robotic Surgery System.

Committed to providing leading edge technology, in 2006 Oaklawn became the first Michigan hospital to offer Definium 8000 direct-capture radiographic technology, which provided faster exams, superior images, and quicker results.

In 2007, Oaklawn completed a $27 million expansion project that added a third and fourth floor and converted all acute-care rooms to spacious, high-tech private rooms. Oaklawn was among the first wave of hospitals in Michigan to go to all private rooms in an effort to enhance patient privacy, reduce the risk of infection, decrease patient stress, speed healing, shorten hospital stays and improve family amenities.

The final stage of that project enlarged the Critical Care Unit from four rooms to 12.  Each of these private rooms has the capability of being utilized as critical care rooms or “step down” rooms for patients who require close monitoring but less intensive care.

In 2007, Oaklawn renovated the Brooks Rupture Appliance Building downtown as its Dialysis Center and opened its Wound Care Clinic in 2008.

Over the years, Oaklawn has expanded its service area throughout Calhoun County while enhancing its range of medical specialties through the Oaklawn Medical Group, created in 2010.

A physician office on Beadle Lake Road at Battle Creek was opened and expanded, and the Ricketson Medical Building was established in a renovated structure directly west of the hospital. In 2011, the Oaklawn Life Improvement Center became available to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In February 2012, a 45,000-square-foot surgery center was dedicated, featuring four new operating rooms. A new Holistic Center opened in April 2012 at Oaklawn’s Bear Creek campus, and the following May a renovated front entrance and lobby were dedicated, along with expanded complimentary valet parking.

Oaklawn put into service its renovated and expanded Birth Center as 2013 began. Construction on the $2 million project began in August 2012 and was completed Dec. 31, boosting overall square footage by about 25 percent, to 14,679 square feet, including the waiting area.

By 2013, Oaklawn was providing 27 percent of its services off its main campus, including physician offices in Albion, Tekonsha, Homer, Bellevue, Beadle Lake and Olivet. A new era of leadership also had begun, as Ginger Williams, M.D., became President and CEO, succeeding Rob Covert.

As Marshall’s largest employer, with a team of more than 1,000 people, Oaklawn has proven to be a solid, thriving cornerstone of Marshall and surrounding communities.