In 1980, the Sisters of Mercy initiated a rural outreach program, using a mobile health unit to reach underserved patients across our service area. Since then, our regional co-workers and providers have continued to build on that foundation, and today, patients have access to award-winning hospitals and clinics where they can get exceptional care and state-of-the-art services.
Join us as we look back into our archives to learn about the history of each of our regional hospitals. We’ll start in Berryville, with our first hospital to affiliate with Mercy in 1994.
Mercy Hospital Berryville, first known as Carroll General Hospital, opened on September 5, 1969 and was built for a cost of $753,000. A portion of the money to build the hospital came from the 1946 Hill-Burton Hospital Survey and Construction Act, which was passed to follow through on President Harry Truman's call for improvements in America's hospital system. Through the Act, the Federal Government contributed grants and guaranteed loans to projects like Carroll General Hospital. Those Hill-Burton Funds were a big step, but it was the voters of Carroll County who stepped up by passing a bond issue that raised the final $360,000 to complete the construction.
After that, $29,000 was raised in contributions from Carroll County individuals and civic groups who helped furnish the original 14 patient rooms and lobby, nursery and other equipment. In fact, it was equipped much better than most hospitals its size, including a $46,000 automatic film processor which could develop X-rays in 90 seconds compared to the 25-30 minutes it took to develop them by hand and a $10,000 cardiac monitor, which was incredible technology then.
In the late 1970s a big renovation project was undertaken, and again in the early 1990s shortly after the hospital joined Mercy. For current statistics, see Berryville’s Quick Facts on mercy.net.
The hospital began with 40 employees with a combined annual payroll of $165,000, which according to Richard Harp, the hospital’s first board chairman (shown at top left), was an issue.
“The mistake we made,” said Harp, “was that we raised money to build the hospital, but we should have included money for operating costs. We went to the First National Bank in Green Forest and the First National Bank of Berryville who were very good to us, but Madrene Morris and I had to sign a lot of notes for $20,000 that we didn’t have so we could pay the staff and buy sheets and such.” He continued, “In those days, it wasn’t electronic, when you sent a bill for a service, it took three months to get payment back. It was a rough few months, but there was a lot of support from the community. They really wanted this hospital to work.”
In the early years, there were four family practitioners: A.L. Carter, Wayne Jones, Charles Poynor and Oliver Wallace, along with a small nursing staff.