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August 8, 2022

Guest Column | Happy Birthday to Mee! My How We’ve Grown

When Mee Memorial Hospital first opened its doors to South County residents in 1962, astronaut John Glenn had just become the first American to orbit the Earth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at around 652, the average income was just more than $5,500, a gallon of gas cost 28 cents and a year’s tuition at Harvard checked in at $1,520.

And in a city once known as Hog Town, the population of King City in 1962 was around 3,000.

As we look back on 60 years of Mee Memorial, we realize that much has changed … yet much remains the same. Sixty years later, it is still the only hospital within 50 miles of the city, serving an area of several thousand square miles. We still see the same togetherness in our close-knit community in Southern Monterey County.

We still share the same spirit that inspired rancher Tom Mee to donate all the proceeds from a cattle sale, more than $150,000, to help build a hospital named after his late father George L. Mee.

From the beginning, nothing seemed to stop this community from achieving its goals. Back in 1941, before World War II had yet begun, the first full-fledged hospital opened in King City through the tenacity and dedication of a small group of physicians, led by Dr. L.M. Andrus.

The 22-bed, single-story facility on Broadway (where True Value Hardware now stands), was known as the Southern Monterey County Memorial Hospital. During its more than 20-year existence, it thrived as a small-town hospital beloved by its residents.

When Tom Mee’s generous donation put a fundraising drive over the top, it launched us into the modern era — yet we quickly outgrew that facility. The present hospital was built adjacent to that 1960s facility and was completed in 2001. In 2007, the second floor of the hospital was finished.

Today, it is the core of the Mee Memorial Healthcare System in Southern Monterey County. Also included are four comprehensive medical clinics in King City and one in Greenfield.

The facility represents a state-of-the-art hospital and skilled nursing facility that provides culturally sensitive and patient-centered care in our proud rural community.

With a collaborative team of hospital professionals and a progressive and responsive Board of Trustees, we have been able to expand our physician base, improve our technology and equipment, and promote the hospital and its many services.

How did all of this come to pass? Through philanthropy, dedication and volunteerism. Strong community support continues, led by a dedicated Service League, a valued Board of Trustees and a committed Mee Memorial Foundation that over the decades has raised several million dollars for the hospital.

Due to cuts in hospital funding on both state and federal levels, many hospitals have struggled to secure financial support. Each year our volunteers host special events and organize fundraising activities. Through the years, millions have been raised for specific hospital needs, from Heartstart defibrillators to floor polishers and even maintenance and upkeep of the Memorial Rose Garden.

That garden on the hospital grounds is a symbol of our community spirit. Anyone can purchase a “forever rose,” a memorial brick or bench to honor someone they love. The donations represent a “forever purchase,” with the loved one’s name living on forever in the garden.

The Service League, volunteers and hospital staff all combine efforts to be part of something bigger than themselves, and to serve a greater good. It takes much hard work and dedication to operate a resilient, patient-centered, community-minded hospital in rural America.

Access to healthcare services is critical to everyone, yet we know that those in rural communities face a variety of barriers that adversely affect their overall physical, social and mental health status.

South Monterey County falls into this category. For 60 years (and counting) our proud hospital has played a vital role in providing quality patient care to the often-underserved.

It’s comforting to know that Mee Memorial’s efforts don’t go unnoticed. Late last year the Lown Institute published a national ranking of socially responsible hospitals, with Mee earning top marks across three major categories — Health Equity, Pay Equity and Community Benefit. Only 75 hospitals in the country made the Lown Index Honor Roll by earning “A” Grades in all three of those categories.

Earlier this year, the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture named Mee Memorial Healthcare System the 2021 King City Business of the Year. The honor served as validation for the tremendous efforts — under incredibly difficult circumstances — from all of our healthcare employees and volunteers.

It’s no secret that rural healthcare sits at a crossroads, and the ongoing pandemic has added another challenge.

But one thing remains clear. Our community is resilient, and there is so much pride and hope around us. Our South County friends and neighbors stand together, support one another and support Mee’s ongoing mission to provide “healthcare with heart” to all of our valued citizens.

It’s been that way for 60 years, and I’m confident it will continue to be that way in the future.

Rena Salamacha
CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System
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