The Early Years

Olive Murphy

Former Bartholomew County Hospital administrator Olive Murphy was interviewed in the late 1970s and spoke about her 27+ year career in Columbus, Indiana. Recorded on a half-hour open reel videotape, the first 26 seconds of video were not properly recorded, however the audio survived.

The interview ends abruptly as the tape's recording time was exhausted. The video was re-discovered in 2016 by the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives and was kindly donated to Columbus Regional Health. This is the only known video recording of Ms. Murphy.

Bartholomew County Hospital: A Cornerstone of the Community

As early as 1900 the need for a public hospital was recognized by the Bartholomew County Medical Society. Bartholomew County Hospital holds the distinction of being the first county hospital to be built after a 1913 Indiana law enabling counties to issue bonds for building a hospital sufficient to serve the local community. After considering numerous sites, County Commissioners purchased nine acres of land outside city limits on the east side of Haw Creek. Indianapolis architectural firm D.A. Bohlen and Sons was chosen as the architect and plans called for a fireproof building with steam heat and an elevator. Dunlap and Company of Columbus was named as the general contractor for the construction of the 32-bed facility. The final cost of the building came in at $69,442 and the remaining balance of the $100,000 bond was spent on equipment and supplies.

The cornerstone was laid on June 12, 1916. The hospital opened for patients on Feb. 6, 1917. The official logo was a rendering of the building with the phrase “Absolutely Fireproof.” During the first year, the hospital admitted an average of 25 patients monthly and a total of 351 patients were treated that year. The first baby born in the hospital (at a time when most babies were born at home) was Beatrice Mildred Cummins, the daughter of Cummins Engine Company co-founder Clessie L. Cummins and his wife, Ethel. Ethel’s father, Dr. George McCoy delivered his granddaughter. McCoy was a member of the first medical staff, which consisted of five physicians. The first surgical bill on record is dated June 21, 1921 and was $50 to be paid to Dr. Roope for “surgical operation on Ms. Mary Snyder.” According to historic billing files, the average inpatient stay in the early 1920s was about $2.50 a day.

An era of growth

Following the start of diagnostic services in 1928 the hospital began treating more patients; however the majority remained surgical in nature. Diagnostic services included a clinical laboratory area and X-ray area. A list of equipment and technology related purchases from 1935 to 1940 includes portable X-ray equipment, several suites of furniture, cribs, a basal metabolator, a suction apparatus and a lawn mower, among a wide range other items.  In 1930, Dr. Alva M. Kirkpatrick donated $10,000 for the construction of a nurses’ home in memory of his wife, Hattie. Commissioners allowed for another $10,000 to be used for construction and the Hattie S. Kirkpatrick Memorial Home for Nurses was erected just northwest of the hospital. It could house up to 20 nurses.

The esteemed Olive M. Murphy, R.N. began her 28-year contribution to the hospital as administrator in 1939. In the 1940s the hospital introduced a new logo, which was an abstract design. The number of births performed at Bartholomew County Hospital hit an all-time high in 1946 and at that time 94 percent of all births in the county took place at the hospital. The hospital began experiencing overcrowding and between 1941 and 1961 the facility was remodeled numerous times, adding south, north and center wings. Under Miss Murphy’s management, the hospital grew from 32 beds to 184 beds and in 1948, was the first hospital in the state to open a surgical recovery room. In 1955, a physical therapy department was constructed in the north wing. Miss Murphy retired in 1967 and another long-tenured leader, administrator Robert Borczon, saw the hospital through another era of advancement.

In 1968, Bartholomew County Hospital hit a heartwarming milestone – the first set of triplets ever born at the hospital debuted on April 25. Drs. Thomas Dugan and Herman Echsner delivered the babies, born to Mr. and Mrs. James and Nancy Miller. In 1969, the Olive M. Murphy Pavilion was completed; encompassing four floors of what is now the patient tower. Bartholomew County Hospital hosted a dedication ceremony and open house and the newspaper, The Republic, published a 40 page special section highlighting the new features and various healthcare roles of employees and administrators. The section was funded by advertisements which included page after page of “Congratulatory” messages from local businesses at the time such as Cummins, Arvin, Saps Foods, Home Federal Savings and Loans, Northside Drugs and Schneider Implements, just to name a few.

Two more floors were added to the patient tower in the late 1970s. Under Mr. Borczon’s leadership the hospital navigated significant industry changes in reimbursements for healthcare services, the advent of Medicare and the DRG (Diagnosis Related Group) system in the 1980s. Mr. Borczon also continued the hospitals gradual evolution into a regional referral center. In 1980, Bartholomew County Hospital admitted more than 15,700 patients and treated an additional 32,312 outpatients, more than a third of whom were from other counties.