1910 ushered healthcare into Knox County when Dr. Thomas Sidney Edwards arrived and began his practice of ‘horse and buggy’ medicine. Known as the “Father of the Knox County Hospital’, Dr. Edwards performed emergency surgeries in his home until he opened a hospital in the old J.B. Janes residence where the current hospital now stands.
After a fire destroyed the hospital in 1917, Dr. Edwards purchased a home across the street and converted it into a fully-equipped hospital with ten beds and an operating room. Medicine was practiced in this facility until 1926, when the current hospital was completed at a cost of $65,000.00.
Our original facility progressed over the years with several additions. In the 1930’s, a 9-room stucco building was erected adjacent to the hospital to house the nurses. A fifty-foot addition was built in 1942 that joined the nurses’ home to the hospital and added nine more patient rooms. In 1948, a $75,000.00 bond election proved successful and the “Dr. Edwards” wing was added. In 1953, a devastating tornado struck the area, killing 14 people, causing multiple injuries, destroying many homes, and badly damaging the upper floor and west wing of the hospital. The hospital stood like a fortress, taking care of the injured as best they could in their stricken condition while facilitating transfer to other hospitals for the most seriously injured. Expeditious remodeling quickly put the hospital back in full operation. After a $125,000.00 bond issue was approved in 1962, another new wing was added. This wing was named the Eiland-Frizzell Wing in honor of Drs. David C. Eiland and Tom Paul Frizzell.
History shows the hospital prospering financially between 1945 and 1965. However, the arrival of Medicare in 1966 resulted in payments not meeting the costs of providing services. In 1967, Knox County asked the Texas Legislature to create a hospital district with property taxing authority. Knox County Hospital has been property tax subsidized since that time.
Healthcare in Knox County survived the fire of 1917 and the tornado of 1953, but succumbed to the medical and economic challenges of the 1980’s. The doors were officially closed on October 17, 1986, an action that had serious economical and emotional impact on the county. The Board of Directors voted to increase taxes from 21 cents/$100 valuation to 41.4 cents/$100 valuation. A rollback petition was circulated, and a rollback election was held on January 17, 1987. Snow and ice covered the ground on election day, making it difficult for many who wanted to vote against the rollback, especially the elderly. Nevertheless, a record voter turnout of 39% defeated the rollback 810 – 314. The doors-reopened on September 1, 1987.
Surgeries and non-emergency obstetrics were discontinued in October of 1987, and the second-floor of the hospital was silent for a time. Administrator Stephen Kuehler, came to the District in 1990 with a vision of expanding healthcare services in Knox County. In 1993 a home health agency,“Knox County Hospital Home Care”, brought the second floor back to life. During the same year, the District assumed responsibility for the local Emergency Medical Services. In 1996, a Cardiac Rehabilitation program was introduced in the area previously occupied by the surgical suite. Also in May of the same year, a clinic was purchased and the Knox County Hospital Clinic moved from the hospital to the new location at 712 South 5th.
After a 6-year absence, Stephen returned to the District in 2002, again with a vision of “what could be”. A swing-bed program was implemented in 2004 to accommodate patients requiring an intermediate level of care. Physical Therapy was added in 2005 in an out-patient, home health, inpatient, and swing-bed basis. 2009 has proven to be an exceptional time of growth with the purchase of a durable medical equipment company, Seymour Medical, Inc. and the forthcoming branch office to be located in Benjamin, Texas. Also, construction of the new Munday Clinic will be completed by the end of the year.It will replace the clinic purchased from Dr. R. L. Newsome in 1979. E-Commerce has also been introduced via the Knox County Hospital Marketplace web-site and an electronic medical record system is in the process of being implemented.
The resiliency of healthcare in Knox County continues today. The firm foundation laid by our founding fathers and the ongoing support from the people of our county have enabled this vital service to survive many obstacles and evolve into the outstanding system our citizens enjoy today.