Spokane Valley General Hospital accepted its first patient Feb 5, 1969. Opening was delayed a week because storms had piled up several feet of snow and it was difficult for employees to get to the new facility.
Thomas Markson, the hospital administrator, remembers that orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jack Watkins rode to the new hospital through the snow on his horse from his south Valley home. “It was like living in Montana,” he said recently.
The suburban hospital, with 95 patient beds, was financed by private investors from Portland. Even before the opening, the hospital was sold to American Medicorp Inc., another investor group.
The project was encouraged by doctors and nurses who lived in the unincorporated Spokane Valley and who were tired of driving to work in downtown hospitals. Interstate 90 wasn’t yet complete in the late 1960s.
In 1971, the hospital was expanded by 28 beds.
In 1980, St. Luke’s Hospital in Spokane bought the hospital and renamed it Valley Hospital and Medical Center in 1984. In 1985, Valley Hospital became part of Empire Health Services, a nonprofit group that included St. Luke’s and Deaconess Medical Center.
In 2003, a major expansion increased the building’s size by 40%, though the capacity remained at 123 beds. The expansion housed an MRI machine, a cardiac catheter lab, 19 new private rooms and classroom space.
In 2008, nonprofit Empire Health sold Deaconess and Valley hospitals to for-profit Community Health Systems, the nation’s largest hospital chain, operating 110 facilities in 28 states. CHS would also buy the Rockwood Clinic chain in 2009. The proceeds went into the Empire Health Foundation. The foundation would later sue CHS for not offering the level of charity care it committed to during the sale.
In 2017, Deaconess, Valley and Rockwood Clinic were purchased by MultiCare Health System, which is based in Tacoma.
Markson, now 88, worked at Valley from 1968 to 1977 and remembers the early days. The staff liked that “they were caring for their friends and neighbors.” And there were firsts: the first 24-hour emergency room staffed by doctors and the first hospital helipad. “Everybody was enthusiastic,” he said. “It was the right thing at the right time.”
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