Mission Statement

Montgomery General Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality of care and community wide health improvement.

Objectives

One objective of Montgomery General Hospital is to provide quality, cost-effective, and convenient healthcare services that meet and exceed reasonable internal and external customer expectations. This basic summary of our objective, as well as our vision and values, serve as a guideline for daily decision making and additionally represent those principles and practices that we consistently apply. The comfort and care of our patients is our major focus and entails the provision of quality and cost effective care "close to home".

Another of our objectives is to provide education and to increase your health awareness. Part of our mission is consistently putting the "care" in healthcare as a general community institution providing a broad base of services. Healthcare information is now made available to you from our Web site, which provides health information and patient education resources for you, your family, and friends to explore. Access to our services and your physician's location is also provided for non-emergencies through the programming.

History

The history of Montgomery General Hospital is a record of change in response to need.  Just as “Necessity is the mother of invention” the formation of this medical facility was a response to the changing needs of southern West Virginia.  Today, Montgomery General Hospital continues to strive to fulfill this mission of serving the needs and easing the suffering of area residents.

The seeds of the dream that would become Montgomery General Hospital can clearly be traced to the career of its founder, Dr. William R. Laird.  Following his medical training at Washington and Lee University and the Medical College of Virginia, Dr. Laird became a resident in surgery at the Sheltering Arms Hospital at Hansford, West Virginia.

There could have been no better training ground for a coalfield physician than the hallways and surgical rooms of the Sheltering Arms.  When this hospital was established in 1888 by the Dioceses of West Virginia of the Protestant Episcopal Church, it represented one of the first efforts to deal with the increasing medical demands of an area that was rapidly evolving into a major industrial center.

This evolution began with the completion of the C&O Railway through the New River Gorge in 1873 and the establishment of the first coal mine in that area by Joseph Beury.  From this humble beginning, a new and prosperous industry was born.  Within two decades of the opening of the first mine, Fayette County earned the honor of being the first county in the state to mine over one million tons of coal annually.  This was only the beginning.  Between 1900 and 1910, Fayette County recorded a population growth of over 62%, as miners with their families rushed to the area seeking employment.

This growth reflected more than just an increase in population.  It reflected a dramatic change in the face of the area and this change placed enormous demands upon the medical field.  Rural physicians, who once faced the day-to-day demands of small agricultural communities, found themselves overwhelmed by a tidal wave of new medical demands.  Suddenly, the medical needs of the area included men injured in industrial accidents connected with employment in the railroad, timbering and minding industries.  Doctors faced growing numbers of men needing amputations, surgery and other types of emergency treatment.  They were not equipped or trained to give this type of medical care.  To compound the problem, patients were often poor workers without the financial means to pay for extended care.  Medical care in the coalfields rapidly became a crisis.

Several programs developed as attempts to deal with this type of problem and the sheltering Arms Hospital represented one of those.  In 1887, the Protestant Episcopal Church formed a corporation known as “The Sheltering Arms”, which was to operate on a nonprofit basis in its attempt to offer medical care and charitable support for the working poor.  Founders included officials of the church, as well as coal company executives, who were searching for assistance with the medical problems assaulting their industry.

In 1888, Sheltering Arms Hospital became a reality.  However, the plans for financing the facility were far from complete.  The hospital was to function as a “list” hospital, which was a new idea for the southern West Virginia Coalfields.  Under the design of a “list” hospital, the facility sponsored contracts with local coal companies who then collected ten cents per month from each of their employees for support of the hospital.  This deduction provided the miner and his family with prepaid medical care at Sheltering Arms.  The plan was a new one and both miners and operators had to be convinced of the feasibility of it.  Coal operators were reluctant to deduct monthly fees from their workers and miners themselves did not embrace the idea enthusiastically at first.  It was a time when workers felt that hospitals were a choice of last resort to be avoided if at all possible.  With this mindset, miners were not enthusiastic about prepaid medical care they hoped never to use.

However, the list program slowly made progress and by 1892 eight mining companies, representing over 600 people, subscribed to the plan at Sheltering Arms.  As this was one of the few facilities available along the local C&O main route, subscriptions ranged the full length of the New River Field.  Companies subscribing included Crescent Coal, Fire Creek Coal and Coke, Quinnimont Coal, Echo Mine, Caperton Coal, Central Mine, Nuttallburg Coal and Coke, and Alaska Mine.  Patients from these mining operations and towns arrived for care by C&O trains or river packet boat.

Enormous growth continued in the New River Fields of Fayette and Kanawha Counties throughout the first decade of the new century.  Rail lines continued to spring up in the area as the hunger for coal to feed the furnaces of the cities intensified.  Among these were the Kanawha Railway Company which laid tracks from Cabin Creek Junction to Cane Fork; the Kanawha and Pocahontas Railroad along Paint Creek; the Armstrong Creek line; and completion of the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad up the Kanawha River to Gauley Bridge.

As the only fully operating medical facility in the area, Sheltering Arms offered the best hope for adequate medical care to these growing communities.  By 1901, forty-nine coal companies were sending patients to Sheltering Arms Hospital.

From November 1907 until August 1915, Superintendent Dr. J. Ross Hunter oversaw the affairs of the hospital.  In July of 1914, Dr. William Ramsey Laird joined the staff of Sheltering Arms for a one-year appointment as assistant to Superintendent Hunter.  He left at the end of his appointment but returned in October 1915 and accepted the position at a salary of $75 per month.  This position was to serve as training to take over the superintendent position on Hunter’s retirement.  In 1916, Dr. Laird officially accepted the position of surgeon in charge of the Sheltering Arms Hospital.

Laird soon demonstrated that he had a clear vision of the path the hospital should take.  He felt concern about the quality of medical care in the coalfields and believed the hospital should take a role in correcting these problems.  He envisioned the facility as a teaching hospital, overseeing clinics in surrounding areas.

However, Laird’s vision was not popular with either representatives of the church or coal operators,, who felt that he was overstepping the boundaries of his position.  The tension increased when Laird proposed a three-cent royalty on each ton of coal as a means of financing this proposal for extended medical care.  This royalty was an unheard-of assault to the independence of coal operators concerning the welfare of their workers.  Disagreements with the board of directors of the hospital increased after Laird headed a reorganization of the staff.  In 1917, the board responded by separating the duties of chief surgeon and those of superintendent.  The control of the surgeon in charge was limited to surgical and medical cases, with other areas under the control of the newly appointed superintendent, Wayman C. Lyon.

For the next few months, Laird and Lyon attempted to reconcile their different viewpoints on the path Sheltering Arms should follow, but to no avail.  Although various members of the staff expressed their support for the changes Laird advocated, his vision was not that of the board of directors.  The final result was inevitable and Dr. Laird officially resigned his position as surgeon in charge of Sheltering Arms Hospital on December 5, 1918.

However, the career of William R. Laird as hospital administrator had just begun.

The position of supremacy enjoyed by Sheltering Arms as the only complete medical facility in the area was not one that would continue indefinitely.  As early as 1901, the state financed McKendree Hospital in the New River Gorge was offering another option for miners in the area.  Establishment of hospitals in Fayetteville, Oak Hill and Beckley also followed within the next two decades.  Even the Kanawha Valley offered competition for Sheltering Arms, including five hospitals in Charleston.

In 1920, Dr. Laird made his vision of medical care a reality by sponsoring a medical facility designed to operate more independently than had been possible at Sheltering Arms.  Ironically, his enterprise offered yet another source of competition for the clientele of Sheltering Arms.  That year, he opened a new facility in Montgomery, christening it, the Coal Valley Hospital, in honor of the original name of the town post office.  Another former Sheltering Arms physician, Dr. Benjamin F. Brugh, joined Laird as associate at the new facility.  With this experienced staff, Coal Valley soon became a serious contender in the competing theories or medical philosophy in the area.

Coal Valley Hospital came into being at the dawn of a new era, just as an earlier one had given birth to Sheltering Arms.  Indeed, the town of Montgomery in 1920 was a perfect choice for a medical facility.  As the largest town in Fayette County at the time, Montgomery boasted a population of almost 2200 residents inside the corporate limits, as well as, being surrounded by several other booming coal communities.  In addition, it was the site of one of the two preparatory schools for the State University, as well as the first black high school in the county.  Montgomery was a city that seemed destined to grow and Laird was convinced that the Coal Valley Hospital would grow with it.

In keeping with this new outlook, the original list method begun by Sheltering Arms was improved upon.  Miners no longer wanted to be told what deductions would be taken from their paycheck and where they would be spent.  A revised form of the list system offered miners the option of choosing their own hospital and many chose the new Coal Valley Hospital established by Dr. Laird on a hill overlooking the town of Montgomery.

Always a man of vision, Laird erected the first hospital building with an eye toward making it a central unit for future building.  The three-story brick and stone structure originally erected was large by the standards of the time.  However Laird’s confidence in growth was proven justified and the number of patients soon required additional construction.  By 1926, the facility rated as a class A institution and was preparing for erection of a wing on either side of the original building.  During the same period of time, the hospital acquired a brick residence near the main building to be used as a home for both graduate and training nurses.  Within a decade, the Coal Valley Hospital was a source of pride for the community which boasted of the quality of the staff and of laboratories fully equipped to deal with any type of research work.

Like its predecessors, the Coal Valley Hospital would be forced to deal with the demands of an ever-changing economic face in Fayette County.  Within two decades of construction of Coal Valley Hospital, the automobile and the building of new roads opened up new opportunities and new choices to residents.  Gone were the days when the only consideration when choosing a hospital was that it would be easily accessible by rail.  New roads and new methods of travel made all places accessible and the railroad was no longer the umbilical cord between the outside world and the mountains.  Even with expansion, Coal Valley could not meet the demands upon it.  An adjustment was needed in both size and location.

In 1938, Dr. Laird established a new medical facility on one of Montgomery’s main streets where it would be accessible by automobile, railroad or water.  At a three-way junction of transportation, the new facility seemed guaranteed to meet the changing demands of the area.  Two friends of Dr. Laird; Judge George W. McClintic and Dr. Benjamin F. Brugh; insisted that the new facility be named Laird Memorial Hospital, in honor of the parents of the founder.

The Laird Memorial Hospital stepped in to fulfill needs in the area almost immediately.  Soon after beginning operation, it was approved by the American College of Surgeons.  The Surgery department and the Tumor Clinic met the approval of the American College of Surgery for Graduate Training in surgery.

Throughout his career, Dr. Laird was known for his determination to give something of himself to others.  In 1940, he took that philosophy one step further when he oversaw the formation of the Laird Foundation.  The Foundation was created as a charitable institution to allow Laird to channel his own gifts and to create an organization that would one day receive from him, the Laird Memorial Hospital and all its assets.  The foundation would ensure qualified and caring guidance for Laird Memorial in the future when Dr. Laird was no long at the helm.

With the Laird Foundation in the background and Dr. Laird working in the forefront, Laird Memorial Hospital began to benefit from gifts that continue working for the good of others.  A perfect example is the Mary Louise Herscher Diabetic Clinic which came into being in the mid-1940.  The Clinic was endowed as a living memorial to the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Herscher of Charleston who lost their daughter to diabetes.  Dr. William L. Claiborne assumed the responsibility for this clinic dedicated to a disease that continues to challenge medical authorities even today.

Another addition was the private pavilion named Dayton Pavilion in honor of Arthur Dayton, who drew up the original plans for the Laird Foundation and the Patients Library which also became a reality due to the generosity of the Herscher family. 

In 1952, a gift from the founder enabled the Laird Memorial Hospital to merge officially with the Laird Foundation.

Throughout the next few years, Dr. Laird, personally, as well as the facility he had founded continued to grow and expand their efforts.  By the mid-1959’s, Laird was a Diplomat and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, as well as a member of the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons.  He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Medical College of the Virginia Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Medical School of West Virginia University.  In honor of his achievements, he was awarded honorary degrees from Hampden-Sydney College, West Virginia Institute of Technology, West Virginia Wesleyan, Salem College and the Medical College of Virginia.  In 1958, he was honored as the recipient of the Distinguished Award of the American College of Surgeons.

Laird Memorial Hospital also continued to expand its achievements and services.  One area in which that service extended far beyond the boundaries of the hospital was in the nurses’ training program.  Student nurses attended two full years of training in the theory as well as practical experience.  In addition to general training, students were required to master special fields such as Surgery, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Clinic Departments.  During the 1950’s, the last three months of training were spent in Maryland where they received Psychiatric Nursing Experience.  All of this was preparation to meet the challenge of the State Board Examinations.

The Nursing Program at laird Memorial may well have been the most far-reaching positive achievement of the hospital.  For the young women who trained there went on to serve the medical profession statewide.  As the years passed, patients who had never heard of Laird Memorial Hospital would nevertheless enjoy the benefits of comfort and care at the hands of those who trained there.

In 1971, Laird Memorial Hospital officially became Montgomery General Hospital by a vote of the Board of Directors.  For years, this medical facility has played an active part in fulfilling the needs and easing the suffering of area residents, carrying on the proud tradition of service begun by Coal Valley and Laird Memorial Hospitals.  During this half century, the needs and even the names may have changed, but for Montgomery General Hospital, the mission remains the same.

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