Looking Back: Dream to reality — hospital is complete

Published 9:48 am Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 1963

The communities of Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight are enhanced by the presence of a brand new medical center that rivals any in the southeastern Virginia region. Located at the intersection of High Street Extended and Fairview Drive in Franklin, Southampton Memorial Hospital will soon, officially, come into existence. It is a sparkling, new facility that has risen from the ground in a 25-acre area that previously was peanut patches and cornfields, a part of Hillview Farm. The land was donated by its owners – the family of Rena Camp Rawls and Sol Waite Rawls, Sr.

Hillview Farm originally was a part of the historic George Camp farm – a fitting place for this hospital to be. George Camp was the father of the Camp brothers who, in the 1880’s and 1890’s, established Camp Manufacturing Co. in Franklin, Virginia and developed various other enterprises in Florida.

Construction on the new community-owned hospital began in May of 1961. The foundation stone was placed in July of 1962. Southampton Memorial Hospital will be dedicated on May 19, 1963 with Governor Albertis S. Harrison as the guest speaker. The general public is invited.

Patients will be received around the first of June.

The four-story facility, including the basement, is designed to accommodate 110 beds; however, if an emergency should arise, space can be made available to house up to 140 patients.

The hospital faces southeast and is surrounded by spacious, landscaped grounds. The outer building is constructed with brick and aluminum, with four-foot aluminum sun shades protecting rooms from the direct rays of the sun.

A large parking lot is provided. Patients can be driven up to the front entrance, which will be sheltered from the weather by an overhead canopy, and enter the spacious lobby – something that Raiford did not offer in its downtown setting.

An ultra-modern surgical suite is located on the second floor. It has four operating rooms, two delivery rooms, and three emergency operating units. A feature at Southampton, not offered at Raiford Memorial Hospital, will be a recovery room where trained nurses will standby as patients come out from surgeries.

A physical therapy department is located on the first floor.

All doctors will carry transistor radios on which they can be paged at any time.

A snack bar and a prescription filling counter are located near the lobby.

All rooms have private toilet facilities. Speakers at the head of each bed will enable patients to call directly to the nurses’ station. And, telephones are located in each room. A special room for new mothers is provided next to the nursery. Patient isolation rooms are also available.

Also included are an autopsy room and a morgue.

All during the fund-raising period, and up to and during the construction phase, many people worked not only publicly but also behind the scenes to make Southampton Memorial Hospital a reality. Sol Rawls, Jr. worked tirelessly while Raiford and Southampton Administrator Jesse Reel was taking care of day-to-day details for both hospitals.

The medical office building for doctors, adjacent to the hospital, is under construction and nearing completion. Several doctors are already occupying the new building. Other doctors are making arrangements to relocate there.

A 29 member board of directors, appointed during the fund-raising campaign, became more active about the time of the construction startup. They began meeting on a regular basis and had continuous input and received updates throughout the construction period. Made up of representatives from throughout Southampton County and Franklin, this Board contributed greatly to the fund-raising effort, and are recognized for their efforts in getting continuing area-wide support for the new hospital. And, they are providing vital communications with the communities that they represent.

Everyone is excited about the new hospital and hospital staff personnel are carrying out their assigned tasks with obvious enthusiasm. Although hospital construction is essentially complete, many last minute details are being handled.

And, of course, a new hospital with expanded capability and responsibility must have proper staffing in order for its mission to be fulfilled. Jesse Reel, Southampton Memorial Hospital Administrator, and others within the organization, are busy with transfers of Raiford staff people to the new facility. And, new people are being hired.

A new “industry” has come to town. It will add tremendously to the economy of our area.

Clyde Parker is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com