Phoebe marks 100th year of legacy of care

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

Since Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital began 100 years ago, the health and well being of the citizens have been the enduring focus. And it was, in fact, the citizens, led by the women of the Hospital Aid Society, who recognized the need for a hospital in the small Southwest Georgia community that had taken root along the banks of the Flint River.

On Day One, the people of the community showed up with sheets and linens and other supplies to outfit their new hospital. News traveled fast, at least for 1911, and I expect eventually folks came from as far away as Sylvester and Newton to see the hospital on Jefferson Street.

In 1911, Phoebe's doors opened to the sick and the suffering, regardless of race or ability to pay -- the remarkable mandate from Judge Putney that is alive and well here today. While it is hard for us to imagine a town without a hospital, the early Phoebe supporters were thankfully not going to accept a town without health care. They worked for several years to identify the philanthropy to make their dream a reality. And so that is how Phoebe came to be built on the strong foundation of community consensus and the unbridled spirit that would continue to bring each new breakthrough in medicine to the people of Albany and Dougherty County.

From the first, the goal has always been to serve and care for our citizens right here at home, and with every decade, leadership sought out the best ways to meet that goal. Phoebe's centennial story is one of compassion and caring, and, most especially, of the steadfast dedication of the doctors, nurses and all staff who keep the patient at the center of their purpose. At every turn, only the best would do.

At Phoebe, we have eagerly anticipated this Centennial year for a while now. The members of the Phoebe Family have shaped celebrations and even renewed their knowledge of Phoebe with popular trivia contests. Celebration events, including the upcoming appearance of the legendary Bill Cosby, have once again engendered a heartwarming sense of community as we invite all to join in to celebrate the treasure of a community hospital.

I have often wondered what the courageous and persistent volunteers and their founding benefactor Judge Putney would say if they could glimpse the amazing medical technologies of today and a Phoebe that has grown to meet the needs of the citizens throughout our region.

In 1911, the women of the Hospital Aid Society knew a strong community hospital is at the hub of a healthy community. They correctly focused on access to care and a place to come to for those in need. Today our definition of health in the community is broadened. We are fortunate to live in a community where we share the will to create and improve our physical and social environments, where individuals and families live in safety and have gainful employment -- and where they can pursue health so that all may live their maximum potential.

The Phoebe of 2011 continues to play a role in community health, and we take our responsibility seriously, both inside and outside the hospital walls. For almost two decades more than 55 percent of our patients have come from outside Dougherty County, and we have extended services to the region so that people can access care close to home.

Judge Putney would indeed find a Phoebe that has become a regional asset in creating access to care, a progressive system that serves patients at four community hospitals outside of Albany. His endowing gift created an enduring worthiness and mission that has not changed in 100 years.

Today Phoebe is far more than a network of facilities and advanced technologies. We are a health care family of individuals linked together for the very humane purpose of treating and healing those in need. Every day, these dedicated individuals come to work tirelessly to alleviate suffering and battle disease. Initiated a century ago, this legacy of care is a sturdy bridge to the next century of caring.

Joel Wernick is president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.