Highlands Hospital held its 130th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, September 17, 2021.
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Highlands plans to celebrate 130 years
JUNE 02, 2021 – BY ROXANNE ABRAMOWITZ
Commemorative coins for the 130th anniversary.
A photo when Highlands became a member of the Forbes Health System and signing of the divestiture agreement.
Highlands Hospital is inviting the public to a special celebration — its 130th anniversary – a Sept. 17 community get-together. From 5 to 8 p.m. the hospital grounds will be teeming with activity, said Highlands’ Marcy Ozorowski, leading the anniversary planning committee.
The hospital has been displaying its history and that of the community with photos and memorabilia lining the walls. An anniversary logo will be displayed on T-shirts and commemorative coins. The coins, mementos of the day, will cost $10. Specially made anniversary pins are being produced for hospital employees.
Volunteers, including present and past employees, as well community members, are helping with the celebration. They will be on hand Sept. 17 to help visitors enjoy the festivities. The event will kick off with an opening ceremony. A proclamation by Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln will declare Sept. 17 Highlands Hospital Day. The celebration will include events for adults and children. The latter will involve face painting, crafts and other activities.
Health screenings will be conducted. Ozorowski said a Meet-the- Doctors from the Highlands community event is planned. With many new physicians on staff — and some with long tenures — Ozorowski said this is a great way for the community to get to know Highlands caregivers.
The event will feature refreshments, music by a DJ, food, 50-50 tickets and raffles for such items as a laptop computer and big-screen TV. Proceeds will benefit the Highlands Hospital Foundation, Ozorowski said. The committee said donations will be accepted for the foundation. The committee is suggesting a theme of “130” — for example, 130 pennies, $130, $1,300 or more along that line. “This hospital is just so important. People don’t realize how special Highlands is,” said Ozorowski, adding it is one of a few independently operated hospitals in the state. “How many communities have suffered a hospital loss? Having a hospital changes the whole economics of a community. This should be our centerpiece.”
Highlands is the second largest employer in the area comprising the Connellsville Area School District. The district is first. “We want the community involved in the celebration. We appreciate everything they do to support us,” Ozorowski said. Ozorowski said former employees have been invited to the celebration as have individuals born at the facility when it was still Connellsville State Hospital. Among those will be the Flynn triplets. “We are hoping it turns into a type of reunion,” she said.
The day will include therapy dogs, New Haven Hose Company fire truck, a Fayette EMS unit and a motorcycle club. Organizers hope to have classic cars on display. “We have a lot of stuff jammed into three hours,” Ozorowski said. Ozorowski is thankful to community members who continue to contribute items for the hospital display, adding the committee is working with Armstrong on various projects. One already on the hospital’s YouTube and webpage is a video featuring employees singing the hospital’s version of the “Friends” TV show theme song. All hospital departments participated.
Ozorowski is hopeful community members will come out Sept. 17 to help celebrate the 130-year milestone. “It’s a special place,” she said. “I’ve worked here for 37 years and I’ve loved every minute.”
Started in 1891 Highlands Hospital was originally Cottage State Hospital. According to hospital history, it was built on land donated by Col. J.M. Reid and transferred to a board of trustees in November 1890. In 1891, a frame building was built at the intersection of Cottage and Murphy avenues. The first patient was admitted Jan. 31, 1891, when the hospital was staffed by 13 nurses, support employees and an eight-member medical staff. Its bed capacity was 38 patients. It came under state ownership, and was one of many established for coal miners, according to its history. It was renamed Connellsville State General Hospital and in 1927 the original building was replaced by a red-brick structure. The East Wing was built in 1953 as a nurses’ residence. The Central Wing was added in 1963 and featured additional inpatient rooms, surgical suite and emergency room. With the economy, population and industry dwindling in the 1970s, the state’s focus on owning and managing health care facilities waned. After years of speculation the hospital would be closed, the state divested itself of Connellsville State Hospital and turned over ownership and management to the community. It was the first of eight state owned hospitals to go under private control.
On Sept. 7, 1985, Highlands Hospital began operation as a community-owned, not-for-profit institution and a member of the Forbes Health System. The divestiture agreement provided that to ensure stability and success of the new institution, a local board would oversee it and a partnership with an established health care organization would be required. Forbes was chosen.
Following 10 years of growth and improvements to the facilities, services and technology, Highlands separated from Forbes. A three-year partnership with Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant — as the Fay West Health System — resulted in 1997 but the affiliation ended in 2000. Today, Highlands Hospital operates as an independent, not-for-profit, acute-care hospital. It employs more than 400 people and offers 71 patient beds.