History Timeline

1905-2020 History Timeline Details

 

 

1905 Dr. Seawell Establishes Care Dr. J. Walter Seawell operated a small private hospital at 211 North Street. It eventually became what is now Healdsburg District Hospital. He served as the city’s public health officer until his death in 1937, at age 58.
1908 Hospital Founded Healdsburg has had a hospital since 1908, when Dr. J.W. Seawell opened a five-room sanitarium in his home office on North Street, the current home of the Camellia Inn, a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
1920 Moved to new location Seawell moved his sanitarium to the T. S. Merchant building at the corner of Lincoln and Johnson Streets in 1920, combining it with another facility run by Dr. Frank E. Sohler. Seawell and Sohler were helped by Nercilla Ames Harlan Jones, a former Army nurse, and her husband Charles Jones, a former Army medic.
1929 Fire Destroys Hospital The Jones’ operated Healdsburg General Hospital until 1929, when it was severely damaged by a fire. All seven of the current patients were evacuated to a nearby home.   The community reacted quickly. Ira H. Rosenberg offered the old Rosenberg residence at East and North Streets (site of the current Jordan Oil and Gas Company building) as a temporary hospital.
October 1929 New Larger Hospital Opens A community fund-raising drive netted $50,000 from 45 citizens in just 10 days for a new facility, at the same location, Lincoln and Johnson Streets.  The building was complete in October, 1929. The one-story, concrete, fireproof building was considered state-of-the-art. It had 10 private rooms, two-bed wards, a room signaling system, a surgery, a delivery room, nursery, offices, solarium, kitchen and dining rooms, and an emergency ambulance entrance.   It was one of the first hospitals of its size to be inspected and recognized by the American College of Surgeons.   Nercilla Jones was its director for many years.The hospital capacity expanded from 14 to 25 patients, and served the ill from as far away as Annapolis and Boonville.
1968 Hospital Sold The original 45 donors and their heirs sold the hospital to Chanco Medical and Electronic Enterprises in 1968. Chanco started to look for a new location for the overcrowded and outdated facility, then considered scrapping the expansion.
1969 Search for New Site Administrator Duane Kenward and Nurse Ramona DeBenedetti (like Nercilla Jones before her) helped rally support for the new hospital at new location. Administrator Duane Kenward and Nurse Ramona DeBenedetti (like Nercilla Jones before her) helped rally support for the new project. The work began in 1969 on four acres of land on University Street
1972 Current Site Opens The hospital held a grand opening in its present location in January, 1972.   The old facility was sold and converted to offices for Duff Chiropractic.  At the time, the hospital was once again considered to be the best of its type. With 52 beds and plans for up to 150 more, the hospital had two surgeries, high-tech therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, laboratories, a pharmacy, intensive care and maternity units, kitchen and dining, an emergency department, and much more.
1975-1995 Ownership Changes The new hospital went through a series of owners over the next two decades. Chanco merged with American Medical Enterprises to become American Medical International. AMI built new doctor’s offices nearby, and expanded the hospital’s technological capabilities. In 1988, AMI helped 15 of its hospitals form an employee-owned firm, EPIC, which was eventually acquired by Health Trust in 1993.    In 1995, healthcare giant Columbia/HCA acquired the hospital.
1998 Threatened Closure Columbia/HCA was on a rapid growth pattern, and overextended itself. In March 1998, Columbia/HCA officials announced that, unless a buyer was found for the hospital, it would close in 90 days.   At that time, although the hospital served patients from throughout the north county, it was still primarily considered to be a Healdsburg institution.   Dan Rose, a Healdsburg physician nearing retirement, decided not to let the hospital close.   A number of groups were formed to investigate buying the hospital from Columbia/HCA, but Rose’s group got the blessing to negotiate exclusively with Columbia/HCA.   The community raised $500,000 by the end of October, 1998, and the purchase was completed the following month, using the city of Healdsburg’s tax-exempt bond capability. A new Chief Executive Officer, Ed Bland, was hired.
2000 Struggles Continue Nuestro Hospital, as the new entity was called, struggled to find its focus in a rapidly-shifting healthcare environment.   In July 2000, Bland announced that the hospital was in good shape.   He was wrong. An accounting error surfaced a few weeks later, and Bland reported that the hospital instead would finish the year $2 million in debt.    The alarms kept going off. Bland and Rose (Chairman of the Nuestro board) looked at every option – they discussed mergers or buyouts with Memorial and Sutter Hospitals, and they looked at whether to close various departments.
2001 Drastic Steps Required Nuestro took drastic steps in March 2001, closing the maternity ward, the intensive care unit, and two-thirds of the beds. That move helped cut costs, but had an unanticipated consequence. As doctors sent their intensive care patients elsewhere, they took other procedures as well, and the hospital continued to lose money.
November 2001 Hospital District Formed That spring, the hospital announced a “make or break” strategy, a plan to form a public hospital district and ask voters to tax themselves to help keep the hospital open.   The planned district was drawn widely, including the communities of Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Windsor.   In November 2001, the new district was approved by more than 80 percent of the voters. Rose said that a lot of hard work is still ahead. “This buys us time while structural changes in health care are put in place,” he said.
2002 District Buys Hospital The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors appointed the five-member North Sonoma County Hospital District board in January 2002, and the district proceeded to borrow $2.5 million from the county to buy the hospital from Nuestro through eminent domain.
2003 On the Brink In early 2003, the hospital teetered on the brink once again. “If we maintain business as usual, we’ll be going out of business in mid-March,” said Chief Financial Officer Dan Hull in February of that year. Hospital leaders developed a “12-Step Turnaround Plan.”    The plan called for a series of 12 initiatives, which include increasing surgical services, cost-cutting, asking the taxpayers for help, and securing $3 million in emergency financing, through fundraising and a loan from the county. “This started out as a business plan … now we’re calling it a turnaround plan,” said Iversen.
April 2004 Voters Increase Funding A plan to ask voters to increase the parcel tax from $85 to $125 in November 2003 was postponed, and the district eventually settled on $150 as the new parcel tax figure. The voters approved the increase as part of the  April 13, 2004 ballot Measure.
2007 Joint Powers Agreement The Northern California Healthcare Authority Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) was formed in 2007 to enhance the collaboration between health care providers in the district.
2016 New MRI Received a new mobile Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine granted from the Kalmanovitz Foundation that was coordinated by Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County.
2017 Center for Women’s Health Dr. Laura Kimbro opens the Center for Women’s Health in Windsor offering Specialized Gynecology to her patients in Windsor.
2019 Kincade Fire The Kincade fire burned 10,000 acres and forced the Hospital to close for 24 days and evacuate 22 patients.

1980-2000’s

Recent History and the New Hospital

The hospital went through a series of owners over the next two decades (1980-2000’s).

Chanco merged with American Medical Enterprises to become American Medical International. AMI built new doctor’s offices nearby, and expanded the hospital’s technological capabilities.

In 1988, AMI helped 15 of its hospitals form an employee-owned firm, EPIC, which was eventually acquired by Health Trust in 1993.

In 1995, healthcare giant Columbia/HCA acquired the hospital. Columbia/HCA was on a rapid growth pattern, and overextended itself. In March 1998, Columbia/HCA officials announced that, unless a buyer was found for the hospital, it would close in 90 days.

At that time, although the hospital served patients from throughout the north county, it was still primarily considered to be a Healdsburg institution.   Dan Rose, a Healdsburg physician nearing retirement, decided not to let the hospital close.   A number of groups were formed to investigate buying the hospital from Columbia/HCA, but Rose’s group got the blessing to negotiate exclusively with Columbia/HCA.   The community raised $500,000 by the end of October, 1998, and the purchase was completed the following month, using the city of Healdsburg’s tax-exempt bond capability. A new Chief Executive Officer, Ed Bland, was hired.

Healdsburg General Hospital 1920-1972

Healdsburg General Hospital 1920-1972

After Dr. Seawell moved the hospital to to the T. S. Merchant Building, it operated as the Healdsburg General Hospital until 1929,when it was severely damaged by a fire. All seven of the current patients were evacuated to a nearby home.

The community reacted quickly. Ira H. Rosenberg offered the old Rosenberg residence at East and North Streets (site of the current Jordan Oil and Gas Company building) as a temporary hospital.

A community fund-raising drive netted $50,000 from 45 citizens in just 10 days for a new facility, at the same location, Lincoln and Johnson Streets.

The building was complete in October, 1929. The one-story, concrete, fireproof building was considered state-of-the-art. It had 10 private rooms, two-bed wards, a room signaling system, a surgery, a delivery room, nursery, offices, solarium, kitchen and dining rooms, and an emergency ambulance entrance.

It was one of the first hospitals of its size to be inspected and recognized by the American College of Surgeons. Nercilla Jones was its director for many years.

The hospital capacity expanded from 14 to 25 patients, and served the ill from as far away as Annapolis and Boonville.

The original 45 donors and their heirs sold the hospital to Chanco Medical and Electronic Enterprises in 1968. Chanco started to look for a new location for the overcrowded and outdated facility, then considered scrapping the expansion. Administrator Duane Kenward and Nurse Ramona DeBenedetti (like Nercilla Jones before her) helped rally support for the new project. The work began in 1969 on four acres of land on University Street, and the hospital held a grand opening in its present location in January, 1972.

The old facility was sold and converted to offices for Duff Chiropractic.

At the time, the hospital was once again considered to be the best of its type. With 52 beds and plans for up to 150 more, the hospital had two surgeries, high-tech therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, laboratories, a pharmacy, intensive care and maternity units, kitchen and dining, an emergency department, and much more.

Nineteen patients were shuttled from Johnson Street and the new era began.

J. Walter Seawell MD

J. Walter Seawell MD 1905

Dr. J. Walter Seawell operated a small private hospital at 211 North Street. It eventually became what is now Healdsburg District Hospital. He served as the city’s public health officer until his death in 1937, at age 58.

Seawell interned at St. Luke’s hospital in San Francisco. He and his hometown friend, Dr. Bill Moore, came home to finish their internship together in Healdsburg. Dr. Moore returned to San Francisco practice, but Dr. Seawell stayed to begin a practice that would span 30 years of unselfish and dedicated service to the people of Healdsburg and outlying communities.

The gold lettered inscription on the Camellia Inn, Dr. J. Walter Seawell, in the transom window over the entry door, announced to the community that he was at their service. For more than 30 years, he maintained his private hospital and sanitarium in the east wing of his house at 211 North Street.

He did a great deal of charity work. His regular charge for a visit was only $2.00. He brought many children into the world, charging only $25.00, and later $35.00, for the service. He delivered babies at home. Sometimes this meant his driving to the homes and ranches of his patients three times a day.

Young Dr. Seawell married Jessie Hale Smith of Alameda on August 24, 1903. The Seawells were known as kind and gracious people as well as prominent members of Healdsburg society. Because they opened their home so often to guests, the Seawells added a dining room to their home in 1903.

The Seawells had two daughters, Marjorie Seawell Barow and Dorothy Seawell Bowles. The girls attended high school one year, and then were sent overseas to Switzerland where they finished school.

Understandably, Dr. Seawell was one of the first owners of an automobile in Healdsburg. According to the local newspapers, on June 1, 1905, there were 2,475 registered automobiles in California. In Sonoma County, there were but 41, while in Healdsburg there were six, in Cloverdale and Geyserville, one each.

Dr. Seawell did much to see to it that the City of Healdsburg and environs kept abreast of the latest developments in medicine and public health. Wishing to give his patients the best possible care, Dr. Seawell gave notice that he would be leaving May 18, 1913, for the east where he would be entering the Johns Hopkins or Howard University to take a post graduate course.

In about 1920, when Healdsburg and the North Bay area in general were visited by a devastating typhoid epidemic, Dr. Seawell moved his sanitarium to the T. S. Merchant building at the corner of Lincoln and Johnson Streets, combining it with another facility run by Dr. E.E. Sohler.  Seawell and Sohler were helped by Nercilla Ames Harlan Jones, a former Army nurse, and her husband Charles Jones, a former Army medic. Seawell agitated for the installation of a chlorinating plant in the municipal water system. There have been no typhoid deaths in Healdsburg since that time.

He was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and president of the Healdsburg Country Club. He also served some time as a physician for the Lytton Salvation Army Home. The home used to be an orphanage for boys and girls. J. Walter Seawell was also a physician for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

Aside from his many contributions to the community, Dr. Seawell was known as a fine man with a great laugh, a man that was always ready to accommodate the needy.

Dr. Seawell died of a sudden heart attack on Christmas day, 1937. Dr. and Mrs. Seawell were returning that evening from a call on Mrs. Morton, mother of Mrs. Jess Murry, who was gravely ill at the Joseph T. Grace ranch on Westside Road. Upon leaving the Grace Ranch, the Seawell car became mired in the mud. Unable to extricate the car himself, the doctor asked Murry for a towline.

As Murry approached, the doctor, apparently suffering a seizure, asked to be taken to Healdsburg. Once being lifted into the car however, J. Walter Seawell suffered a worse seizure and asked to be taken to the Grace home. Even as his medicine bag was brought and Dr. Seawell attempted to take medicine from it, the doctor succumbed at the age of 58.

Following his death, all Healdsburg businesses closed the hour before noon and the flag at City Hall stood at half-mast all day. So many citizens attended the funeral that the services were amplified to the mourners outside. Eighteen nurses who had worked with Dr. Seawell during his 30 years of service sat together in starched white uniforms to express their unified grief.

Camellia Inn