70 years later, Gibson Area Hospital still here, still growing

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GIBSON CITY — When Gibson Area Hospital was built 70 years ago, the original building had 14 rooms — enough to accommodate 28 to 30 in-patients.

With gradual expansion — including the recent construction of a medical office building — the hospital on Gibson City’s north side has seen much growth in the seven decades since.

“What it’s grown into and how it’s progressed, a lot of that has to do with our organization — the great staff and the board members, our great administrative staff,” said Dan Boyce, director of development for the Gibson Area Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s nonprofit fundraising arm. “The people who originally built this hospital probably wouldn’t believe where we are today.”

The hospital at 1120 N. Melvin St. and its various clinics and other facilities are now known collectively as Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services (GAHHS). On Nov. 3, GAHHS held an open house to celebrate the hospital’s 70th anniversary and its growth — specifically, the opening of the medical office building.

Earlier that day, Boyce spoke to members of the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce about the significance of the milestone in the hospital’s history, as well as the significance of the new building.

“These rural hospitals are disappearing, but ours is not going to disappear, I promise you that,” said Boyce. “(Chief Executive Officer) Rob (Schmitt) and the whole staff and the board are not going to let that happen. We’re going to keep growing and growing.”

Boyce, a Gibson City native whose job is to generate income for the hospital’s nonprofit foundation through donations and fundraisers, said the foundation plays a “huge part in helping grow the hospital.” The foundation uses the funds it raises to buy new equipment for the hospital, help bring in new staff and provide continuing-education scholarships for staff, Boyce said.

“We raise money to help the hospital grow like we’re growing,” said Boyce, who began working as director of development last January.

Sometimes, the foundation raises funds for a specific cause. For instance, the foundation has pledged to donate $2 million toward the $12.5 million cost of the medical office building, and it continues to raise funds for that purpose.

Donors to the project will be recognized with their names listed on the new building’s “donor wall,” Boyce noted.

“It’s going to be a nice, beautiful stone wall in the downstairs (of the building),” Boyce said. “We have plenty of open spaces yet.”

Boyce called the two-story, 31,000-square-foot medical office building, which opened in August, “really, really impressive,” noting that perhaps just as impressive was the fact it was done on budget and on schedule despite the nation’s supply-chain issues.

“A shout-out to the builder and to the administration for putting (the project) together and getting it at the right time,” Boyce said.

Short tours of the new building were provided during the recent open house. The building’s 15,000-square-foot second floor includes a general surgery clinic, oncology clinic/infusion center, cardiology clinic, urogynecology clinic, urology clinic and pulmonology clinic, while its 16,000-square-foot first floor includes an orthopaedics clinic and physical, occupational and speech therapy services.

More office space was needed because of the addition of several new physicians and specialties over the last couple of years. One of the hospital’s newest doctors, Dr. Sohail Chaudhry, a former Christie Clinic oncologist, is working at the new building’s oncology clinic/infusion center, which was relocated there from the hospital.

“He’s a great addition,” Boyce said.

Having a number of specialists on staff helps keep people in town for services, Boyce noted.

“We have all that specialty staff to where (patients) don’t have to leave town now,” Boyce said. “And they truly are really great doctors. … We’ve got great staff, especially, now. The administration is really wanting to keep everybody closer to home. Traveling when you’re sick is not what people want to do.”

In addition to pledging $2 million toward the new building, the foundation recently purchased robotics equipment for use in orthopedic surgeries, Boyce said.

Over the years, meanwhile, the foundation has provided continuing-education scholarships to hospital employees totaling about $85,000, Boyce said.

“Everyone’s generous donations help these girls and guys go through and get further education and move up through our hospital system,” Boyce said.

Fundraising continues year-round through events such as the foundation’s golf outing, golf-cart raffle and “glow bingo” games, Boyce said. The golf outing, in its 26th year, is the foundation’s main fundraiser, bringing in $73,000 in income this year. Boyce said he welcomes suggestions of possible new fundraising events.

Among projects the hospital is expected to pursue next, Boyce said, is the construction of a new laundry facility at a location on the hospital campus to be determined. The existing laundry room is in the basement of the hospital.

It is all part of looking ahead to the future, so that the hospital will still be here in another 70 years.

“Part of my job is to keep growing it,” Boyce said.