TVHC a polished diamond
July 09, 2014
Oldest and largest medical facility marks a significant milestone
Dr. Olaf Hoffman was the first doctor of the new hospital, and an avid fisherman. Courtesy photo
Teton Valley Health Care is reaching a major milestone this year with its 75th anniversary. Originally built in 1938 using limestone from the Fox Creek Quarry, the hospital has been a symbol of longevity in a community that has continually evolved throughout its tenure.
Construction of the hospital was funded by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and was initially owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The original badge still exists on the former façade of the building, found inside the Driggs Health Clinic.
Before the hospital was built, there was no facility in Teton Valley in which residents could seek care. “There was only a doctor’s office or a home in which people could get help,” said Ann Loyola, Director of Public Relations and Marketing. The community saw a vital need for a central facility, and banded together to make it happen.
Funds were raised by local residents in order to make the new building functional and complete the project, which wasn’t an easy endeavor during the Great Depression. In order to purchase basic building supplies, “students donated their Valentine’s Day money, and people donated their Christmas money. They also had all kinds of auctions,” said Loyola. Local residents auctioned off basic goods and services including ducks, grains, haircuts and pies. “My heart goes out to these people that wanted a hospital so badly, they gave anything they could offer,” she said.
When the hospital was completed, Teton Valley residents attended the ribbon cutting event in droves, dressed in their best Sunday attire. “The whole town was there, and they were all dressed up,” said Loyola. The community had made an important achievement, creating a hospital for the area where there had previously been none.
“It’s important to remember that the hospital has always been sustained by the community. Since its opening in 1939, there have been perilous times, and times of great financial instability,” said Loyola. The community has kept the facility in existence, a feat when considering federal regulation changes that have occurred throughout the decades.
“It’s very hard when you’re a small hospital to find out that you have to make changes that will impact your bottom line,” she said. Such changes can be very serious for a rural facility, and has required the hospital to be fluid in difficult times.
Despite challenges along the way, TVHC has strived to stay connected with the community. “We keep an eye on the reasons why people come to our emergency room or to our clinics. If we see that a number of people are driving long distances for a service, that tells us that our community needs that service here,” said Loyola.
This connection has driven the inclusion of services such as cardiology, telepsychiatry, infusion therapy and chemotherapy. “When you have cancer or a disease that requires an infusion and chemotherapy, it is stressful to have someone drive you 50 minutes to have this procedure,” said Loyola. Easing the stress that is inherent with health problems is something TVHC has sought to achieve, keeping in line with what the community identifies as basic needs.
“We have had our rough moments, and we have had operational issues that we have had to dig really deep and fix. But overall, the need to have a hospital here that is open 24/7, is just as important now as it was back in 1939,” said Loyola.
Looking toward the future, TVHC seeks to continue to grow wiser, in gaining increased access to data in order to track services, and embracing a patient-centric approach. “This is where you look at everything you are doing as an organization from a patient’s perspective,” said Loyola. This can be as simple as having a door that opens easily, to offering a representative who can guide patients through every step of a complex hospital surgery.
In celebration of this major milestone, the administration looks back to a time when local doctors used their own station wagons as ambulances and a limited staff. “I think this community owes a huge debt of gratitude to those early physicians who came here and worked 24/7. Those doctors really sacrificed time with their family to be available 365 days and nights a year,” said Loyola.
In 1939, Teton Valley residents could have scarcely guessed that a day would come when patients would be capable of communicating with specialists via cameras and monitors, enabling the hospital to diagnose with the help of top-notch assistance from larger medical centers such as the University of Utah. “We get the best of the best,” said Loyola.
Such technology has improved the health of valley residents to the point that “people can survive things they would not have” 75 years ago. “It’s incredible for people to have such a team on their side,” said Loyola.
TVHC will be celebrating their anniversary with an annual health fair in September, during which specially priced services will be offered. The hospital administration looks forward to another 75 years of service in the community, and celebrates a “better, wiser, responsive and sustainable” facility. They will continue to take the pulse of the community in striving to be the best resource possible for Teton Valley health.