The Moultrie Observer heralded a great community victory in October 1939 when Vereen Memorial Hospital opened, and over the years there have been many important headlines to chronicle the hospital’s many success stories … everything from facility expansions to new buildings to the introduction of new technology.
However, as important as all of those milestones were, nothing has contributed to the overall success of what is now known as Colquitt Regional Medical Center as the leadership stability it has enjoyed over all those years.
Just consider the following:
• Only four CEOs in 70 years, especially considering the fact that the first CEO served only two years.
• A total of 53 local men and women who have served on the Colquitt County Hospital Authority for an average of more than 10 years.
• Authority members who have volunteered a total of 535 years – not hours, but years – of service to plotting the future of the hospital.
• A total of 12 Authority members who each served more than 15 years and seven who served more than 20 years each.
And that doesn’t take into consideration the physicians who have served in various leadership positions over the years, including the 10 physicians who have served as Authority members and the 74 physicians who served on the medical staff for 10 years or more.
All of that translates to an enormous amount of visionary leadership, which in turn produced the many successes stories.
When Vereen Memorial Hospital opened, its first administrator was Mrs. Pierina Egan, a registered nurse and nurse anesthetist who also had administrative experience she gained as a superintendent of sanitariums.
Mrs. Egan guided the hospital through its first two years, bringing on new staff and new equipment for the brand new hospital, but she resigned in 1941 to accept a position in Florida.
That’s when the board turned to Mrs. Nora Manning, who came to Moultrie in 1919 as a nurse for Dr. Everett Daniel’s sanitarium and for the past 10 years had been superintendent of that facility. Mrs. Manning served as administrator for 27 years and guided the hospital from its infancy to a well-established institution poised for more growth.
In the early part of Mrs. Manning’s tenure, one of the major issues was patient recruitment because people were accustomed to treating their illnesses at home. She also had to deal with a physician shortage created by World War II. But the hospital also benefitted as more personnel were transferred to Spence Field during the war years.
The post-war era brought a wave of prosperity and by the early 1950s Vereen Memorial was ready for expansion. With matching federal funds from the Hill-Burton Hospital Construction Act, Vereen Memorial was enlarged from 44 beds to an 83-bed capacity in 1954. And then in 1957 a convalescent wing was added which brought the hospital to a 132-bed capacity. The hospital’s final addition, a new wing to accommodate the laboratory and pathology department, was completed in 1962.
During her administration, Mrs. Manning was also instrumental in establishing the Norman-Vereen training program for nurses which operated at Norman College from 1958 until 1965.
Mrs. Manning retired after 27 years as administrator in 1968 and Millard L Wear, a native of Cohutta, Ga., with extensive hospital administration experience became the new administrator.
Soon after Wear’s arrival, the push began for a new hospital and on March 7, 1972 the voters approved a $3 million referendum. The Hospital Authority and County Commission agreed upon a $2 million anticipated fund program. The new hospital, which was named Colquitt County Memorial Hospital, was dedicated Oct. 27, 1975.
The new facility was a 126-bed hospital with four floors with many up-to-date features such as televisions in the patients’ rooms and two-way communication from the nurses’ station to the patients’ rooms.
In 1978, a fifth floor was added to the hospital which brought the bed capacity to 155.
Having led the hospital through an enormous growth period, Mr. Wear retired in 1982. His replacement was Jim Lowry, who had worked 11 years as the hospital’s assistant administrator and director of financial services. Lowry this year became the hospital’s longest serving administrator by surpassing Mrs. Manning’s tenure.
Lowry, a visionary leader, led the hospital to be a major force in physician recruitment and to make sure the community maintained an adequate number of physicians and specialists to meet its healthcare needs. He continues to serve on the Georgia Physician Workforce Board, the state agency responsible for advising the governor and General Assembly on physician workforce and medical education issues.
He also implemented the hospital’s first objective strategic planning process and hired professionals to come in and analyze the strategic healthcare needs of the community which led to the introduction of many new medical services including dialysis, oncology, mammography, home health and many others.
In 1985, in an effort to more accurately reflect the hospital’s position in the larger southwest Georgia market, its name was changed to Colquitt Regional Medical Center. In 1992 the hospital was named the Georgia Hospital Association Rural Hospital of the Year and in 2007 it received the GHA Community Leadership Award. In recent years, the hospital has set the pace for Georgia hospitals in patient satisfaction.
During Lowry’s tenure, the hospital underwent four more expansion projects and added off-campus facilities for dialysis, physician offices, the Med+Care center and home care.