Dr. M.P.R. Nathan recalled that it didn't take long after its opening in 1984 to realize how important Oak Hill Hospital had become to the west side of Hernando County. • Nathan, the hospital's first staff cardiologist, told visitors to the hospital's 25th anniversary celebration Saturday that things were often so busy that he and other doctors sometimes performed minor procedures in Oak Hill's corridors. • "There was just no room," he said. "We did what we had to do where we could."
The hospital, which began life as a three-floor, 96-bed facility, has more than doubled in size since then. So, too, has Spring Hill's population, which went from 30,000 in the early 1980s to nearly 80,000 today.
The silver anniversary party reunited a number of original hospital staffers and volunteers who spent much of the morning reminiscing about old times.
Longtime hospital volunteer Manny Hirsch recalled that Oak Hill had many ardent supporters who went to bat for the hospital long before the foundation was laid. He and his wife, Mimi, were among those who collected money and petition signatures to help convince legislators in Tallahassee of a need for the hospital.
"People felt it was important if our end of the county was going to grow," said the 88-year-old Hirsch.
"I look at it now and realize just how right we were. No one can even imagine what Spring Hill would be like without this hospital."
According to Oak Hill's chief executive officer, Mickey Smith, the hospital's parent company, HCA, has poured an estimated $200 million into improvements over the years to make the facility one of the most advanced in Central Florida.
An $8.5 million, state-of-the-art cardiac diagnostic and treatment unit that opened in 2006 eliminated the need for patients in need of open-heart surgery and other invasive procedures to travel beyond the county's borders.
Other important additions include a cancer treatment program, a stroke center and an advanced spine care program.
However, Oak Hill chief of staff Dr. Mallik Piduru said that the hospital can't rest on its laurels. Constant growth has the facility's nine available operating rooms running at nearly full capacity, which limits the pursuit of other programs such as a neurosurgery unit.
"These are certainly things we will want to look at as we plan for the future," Piduru said. "We've come a long way, but we have much more to do."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.