From Putnam to the Present Southwestern Vermont Health Care

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, formerly Putnam Memorial Hospital, admitted its first patient on June 10, 1918. Built with money donated by Henry W. Putnam and Henry W. Putnam, Jr., the original structure housed 35 patient beds and cost $85,000 to build.

Prior to 1918, residents of Bennington County had to travel to North Adams, Mass., or Troy, N.Y., to receive medical care. Frequently, they made the trip by train, since ambulance service was not available. The Putnams' generosity made health care more accessible, improving the overall quality of life for residents of Southwestern Vermont.

From 1918 to 1943, the hospital's administrator was Mary Baker, a nurse who had come to Bennington from New York City. During the first 15 years of her tenure, the hospital undertook several small construction projects -- enclosing porches and building small additions to accommodate more patient beds. The Nurses' Residence was built during this period, with a full suite for Miss Baker. Nurses lived on campus then, working twelve hour shifts, six days a week.

In 1933, fire gutted much of the hospital, and rebuilding the extensive damage kept the hospital closed for nearly a year.

The trials brought by the Great Depression and World War II halted further construction until 1955, when the East Wing was built. In 1964, a new kitchen and boiler plant were added, and the second floor of the East Building was expanded to house the hospital's first Intensive Care Unit. In 1969, the hospital took a major step forward when it constructed the Third Floor addition. Originally intended as an extended care facility, the unit held 38 beds, bringing the hospital's total capacity to 166.

In 1974, the hospital added the west building to house the Emergency Department and other services.

By the early 1980s, advances in technology and a shift toward outpatient care led to more changes in the hospital building. The original Intensive Care Unit was no longer large enough for new equipment, and the laundry area had become cramped and overburdened. In 1983, the hospital expanded the west building to include a new Intensive Care Unit, Respiratory Care Department, Laundry, and meeting rooms.

In the mid '80s, the trend to outpatient care led the hospital to reduce its number of beds. This shift went along with 1985 construction of the Weston Hadden Convalescent Center (a 150-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility now called the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation).

By 1984, it was clear that the hospital's operation was sufficiently complex to require reorganization. That year, Putnam Memorial Hospital assumed a new identity as Southwestern Vermont Medical Center under a new "parent" organization, Putnam Memorial Health Corp.

A 1996 building project modernized the facilities required by Surgery, Ambulatory Care, Maternal-Child Health, and Central Sterile Supply. The modernization project added also Radiation Therapy as its one new service. The next year, Bennington Area Home Health joined the team to create a fully integrated health system. In 2000, the health system changed its name to Southwestern Vermont Health Care to emphasize the integration of patient care.