KENNEWICK -- Harry S. Truman was president, Vera Lynn's Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart dominated the airwaves and gas cost around 20 cents a gallon.
It was the height of summer of 1952, and on the afternoon of July 31 -- a Thursday -- Kennewick General Hospital admitted its first patient.
Roy Loe underwent surgery and soon was resting comfortably, planning to "listen to the radio and just take things easy while he has the chance," the Tri-City Herald reported at the time.
The new hospital on South Auburn Street had about 46 beds and cost $725,000 -- equivalent to $6.5 million in today's dollars.
It boasted state-of-the-art technology, from a central dictation system to a 250,000-volt X-ray machine used for deep-therapy cancer treatment. It also had the city's first-ever passenger elevator.
The new hospital was "the realization of 50 years of sacrifice and planning on the part of local citizens," the Herald said. And its debut meant a new era in health care in the Tri-Cities.
Another new era is set to unfold this week with the debut of another new Kennewick hospital.
Trios Southridge Hospital -- Trios is the new name for the Kennewick General Hospital system -- opens its doors July 15 after years of dreaming, planning and construction.
The new hospital had a long and sometimes bumpy path to fruition, said Glen Marshall, Trios CEO. "But we've stayed the course because we've really believed that it was the right thing for us to do as an organization and we believed that it was the right thing for us to do for our community," he said.
Like the hospital on Auburn Street that came before it, Trios Southridge has much to offer the community, he said, calling it "a work of love."
When Kennewick General Hospital opened more than 60 years ago, patients shared rooms, with curtains sewn by women in the hospital auxiliary hanging between the beds.
At the new Trios Southridge Hospital, patients have their own space. The four-level, 168,000-square-foot facility has 74 private rooms, including 14 intensive care and 60 medical/surgical rooms.
It also has 27 treatment rooms in its emergency department, including two trauma rooms and six fast-track rooms, plus other features ranging from catheterization labs and diagnostic imaging to six operating rooms. A multifaith chapel provides a tranquil place for patients and families. There's also a gift shop, a coffee shop and a restaurant.
A long public hallway -- the 500-foot "Walk of Wellness" -- stretches from the three-story atrium on one end of the hospital to the emergency department on the other. It's the main public corridor, part of a design approach focused on functionality and ease of navigation.
At the new hospital, "people are going to be able to have their medical care taken care of in the best environment they possibly can," said Rick Reil, a longtime member of the Kennewick Public Hospital District board, which oversees Trios Health.
Kennewick General Hospital opened with about 60 workers. Trios Southridge will have about 400, give or take, with some staff working at both hospitals.
Trios Southridge will be the health system's main hospital, but the Auburn Street facility isn't going away. It's becoming a 37-bed women's and children's hospital, with services including a birthing center and pediatrics. The emergency department at the downtown hospital will become an urgent care center with primary care appointments.
Trios officials had hoped to open the new Southridge hospital in June, but a delay in getting state approval to use the elevators threw off the schedule. Marshall said Tuesday's opening caps an intense period of work and training to prepare for the monumental shift in Trios operations.
And the hospital system is ready.
"We only have one shot to get this right. I think we have prepped ourselves extremely well and it's going to go extremely well," Marshall said.
The road to opening
Kennewick's first doctor set up his practice in 1902, according to Herald archives.
At the time, Walla Walla had the closest hospital.
Makeshift hospitals were set up through the years, and eventually Pasco and Richland got modern hospitals in Lourdes and Kadlec.
George Jones, 97, of Kennewick, recalled when his young daughter was injured and he had to take her across the river to Lourdes.
"We just had to have (a hospital in Kennewick)," he said.
The community -- including Jones, who's now part of the Trios Foundation board -- pitched in to raise money, with efforts from the raffle of a house to a 110-hour marathon radio broadcast. In 1950, a $550,000 bond issue won voter approval.
A special section in the Herald on July 25, 1952, called Kennewick General Hospital "a monument to community effort." The paper ran numerous congratulatory ads from businesses and groups, including the city of Pasco, which wrote it was happy "for the progress of our sister community."
Six decades later, "we've kept up (the Auburn Street hospital) very nicely," Marshall said. But it's still aging, with no more room to grow.
A new hospital has been desired for decades, though finding a way to pay for it proved a challenge. Two propositions failed at the ballot box in the 1980s, and hospital district officials went to voters again in 2007 with similar results.
They then sought a loan through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but that also didn't work out.
Eventually, a private sector option came into place. A corporation formed by the hospital's builder, the Wisconsin-based C.D. Smith Construction, is leasing the new facility to the hospital district for about $800,000 a month, with an option to buy for $110 million after 10 years.
Trios has just started making lease payments. "It was not an easy transaction to put together, but at the end of the day it was a fair transaction for us and it was a good one for us," Marshall said, adding it's allowed the project to move forward after other financing options didn't pan out.
A similar arrangement is being used for an outpatient facility that's under construction at the Southridge site now. The 160,000-square-foot Trios Care Center at Southridge, with outpatient, administrative and support services and physician offices, will connect to the new hospital.
Trios has about 40 acres altogether at Southridge, with a master plan that envisions future expansion of the hospital and more medical office buildings.
Steve Young, Kennewick's mayor, called the Southridge area the future of the city -- a place that's seeing significant growth, from homes to restaurants and other businesses. Kadlec opened a freestanding emergency department at Highway 395 and West 19th Avenue last year.
The new Southridge hospital, Young said, "is an anchor facility for the Southridge area."
Young was among the officials at a ribbon cutting for Trios Southridge Hospital in late May. Gov. Jay Inslee attended, saying, "just as Kennewick General Hospital was integral to the community for over 60 years, Trios Southridge begins a new chapter for the next 60 years and more."
As Trios opens the new facility, it's looking to the community to help fund some of the equipment. The Trios Foundation last week announced the public phase of a campaign to raise $5 million for medical equipment for the hospital and connecting outpatient facility.
The new equipment for both sites totals about $35 million; of that, $30 million is being financed. The campaign launched internally last summer and already has brought in more than $2.6 million in donations and pledges. Trios hopes to reach the goal next year.
The Trios Care Center at Southridge is expected to open in the second quarter of 2015.
Jan Darrington, president of the Trios Foundation board, said the new campus will be more efficient for patients, with many services in one spot.
She described the new hospital as "next level," but added that while it's bigger than the Auburn Street hospital, "it still feels like home" because of the people who'll be there to bring it to life.
For Wanda Briggs, vice president of the hospital district board, Trios Southridge honors the community's vision and effort to bring the original hospital to reality all those years ago.
Her mother gave $25 -- no small amount for the family at the time -- to the cause.
With the new Southridge hospital, "we are providing a competitive and comprehensive medical care system," Briggs said, adding that having healthy competition among hospitals in a community keeps quality up and costs down.
Elective surgeries were to stop at the Auburn Street site for the weekend, helping to temporarily reduce the patient census to prepare for Tuesday. At 7 a.m. that day, the Southridge emergency department will go live, as the Auburn Street ER turns off it lights before reopening later in the morning as urgent care. An army of ambulances will take admitted patients being transferred to Southridge to the new hospital.
It will be busy, a whirlwind.
But after years of dreaming and planning, a new hospital will debut in Kennewick at the height of summer. And, Marshall said, "it's going to be a beginning of a lot of new things for Trios Health."