History

Wilford White, Founder

Proudly Serving the Residents of Portage County for More Than 100 Years

From an 18-bed hospital opened by a young surgeon in 1894, to the 150-staffed-bed acute care facility of today, University Hospitals Portage Medical Center is the only hospital in Portage County and is setting the pace for health care today.

White Hospital - 1894

In 1894, Wilford W. White, MD, a young surgeon, saw the need for a hospital to treat accident victims in the area. Dr. White, who was also instrumental in early plans for what is now The Cleveland Clinic, came to Ravenna after completing his studies at the Western Reserve Medical College. He purchased a home on East Main Street in Ravenna, and the facility became known as The White Hospital, housing 18 beds and an operating room.

Old Surgery RoomThe White Hospital soon expanded to offer limited surgical services. But overcrowded conditions prompted Dr. White to build a new facility on North Chestnut Street at the corner of Cedar Avenue where the current Ravenna Post Office now stands.

The new, 25-bed hospital opened Oct. 1, 1903, in a two-story brick building featuring private rooms, small wards, a second-floor operating room and a kitchen on the first floor. The White Hospital continued to grow with 243 operations performed in 1909. By 1912, 10 physicians staffed the 30-bed facility.

Becoming a county-owned hospital - 1917

In September 1917, an ailing Dr. White offered the county the option to purchase the hospital, and in November of that year, voters approved a $50,000 bond issue to fund the purchase. It was then the hospital became a county facility directed by a board of directors appointed by the Portage County commissioners and common pleas court judge.

By 1920, 48 beds were available, but increased local population and patient needs forced the hospital to operate for nearly a decade at double its capacity. The situation attracted the help of three brothers: Thomas Robinson, a New York City lawyer, Navel Architect Richard M. Robinson, and California banker Henry Robinson. The Robinson brothers grew up in Ravenna and proposed presenting their deceased parent's homestead to the county along with $75,000 for a new hospital. The gift was offered on the condition the county residents contribute an additional $75,000 for construction, which was approved in 1931.

George F. and Mary A. Robinson Memorial Portage County Hospital - 1932

Old Robinson Memorial Hospital, circe 1931The hospital was designed by Good and Wagner of Akron and by Kent architect Charles G. Kistler. P.L. Frank Construction Co. of Ravenna built the hospital and finished two weeks ahead of schedule. On Feb. 21, 1932, 1,600 residents celebrated the dedication of the George F. and Mary A. Robinson Memorial Portage County Hospital. The hospital was named for the Robinson brothers' parents. During the dedication celebration, a 15-piece orchestra performed and guests could view a display of roses from the White House, courtesy of President Herbert Hoover, a friend of Henry Robinson. The facility now serves as the Portage County Administration Building.

The Robinsons' nearby home became a boarding house where nurses could live for $15 a month. It was torn down in 1956.

The new hospital originally housed 50 adult beds, eight infant bassinets, two operating rooms, a labor room and a delivery room. Additional services were soon added, including an emergency room, laboratories and an X-ray department.

It was not long before residents recognized the demands on the facility and the need for expansion. By the late 1930s, the hospital was once again overcrowded, and in 1940, voters approved a bond issue for an addition. The addition allowed for 110 beds and 30 bassinets.

The 1950s saw continued growth and expansion at the hospital, including a laundry and storage building, an administration facility, an expanded x-ray department, two new elevators and an increase to 206 licensed beds. A 1961 renovation program provided for the remodeling of the children's ward and an additional 38 hospital beds, for a total of 244. By 1962, more than 10,000 people were seeking treatment in the emergency department that was originally built to serve between 700 and 800. A much-needed emergency room expansion and an intensive care unit were part of the renovation in 1966.

Following the defeat of a bond issue for further expansion, a feasibility study in 1972 determined that the county needed a new hospital. Voters approved a bond issue in 1973 and the county purchased the Tisher family farm on North Chestnut Street as the site of the new hospital. Groundbreaking on July 27, 1975 marked the beginning of a two-year construction period, which ended with the hospital dedication on Aug. 7, 1977. Total construction costs were $23 million.

Robinson Memorial Hospital - 1977

Moving to the new hospital was a major operation, as both facilities had to be up and running at once. August 20 was moving day, and it took four hours to move 117 patients – including one in traction with a neck injury – to the new facility. Hundreds of volunteers helped, and the army reserve medical unit also assisted. The Conrail trains were halted through Ravenna so as not to disrupt the 2.5-mile move. During the move, a baby was born at the old hospital and a baby was born at the new hospital. The next day, the hospital had 52 new admissions.

The hospital campus has undergone a number of changes since opening in 1977. In 1984, under Phase II of the new hospital, the North Wing was added for outpatient services and other departments, and the South Wing was expanded. The hospital also began acquiring new diagnostic radiology equipment for MRIs, CT scans and mammograms.

Outpatient Centers - 1984

The hospital began its first experiment with an off-site facility in 1984 when it acquired Med Center One - Kent. This urgent care center treats patients when their primary care physician is not available and offers evening and weekend hours. Med Center One - Streetsboro, another urgent care center, opened to the pubic more than a decade later in 1996.

Hospital officials continued to explore health care opportunities in communities like Kent and Streetsboro in the mid-90s. The hospital began work on the Kent Medical Arts Building in 1993. This building was the first in a complex of physician practices, diagnostic centers and health care facilities. It originally housed more than 15 physicians, the Kent Outpatient Services Center and the Kent Mammography Center. Later, the Diabetes Care and Education Center was added and the Portage Kidney Center opened. The Robinson Surgery Center opened next door to the Kent Medical Arts Building in 1997. This free-standing surgery center is the only one of its kind in the county backed by the full services of a hospital. In Streetsboro, a new medical building accommodating Portage Pediatrics opened in May 2000, and a new building for Streetsboro Family Practice opened in September of the same year.

Back at the hospital's main campus, the 1990s was also a watershed era for construction projects and hospital renovation. In 1993, an addition was built for a new cardiac catheterization lab to support the diagnosis and treatment of cardiology patients. The Emergency Department began a FastTrack program in 1995 to separate patients with minor injuries and illnesses from those with urgent needs. Also in 1995, the cafeteria was renovated providing more menu choices and dining comfort. A major expansion and renovation of the laboratory was completed in 1997 as was a renovation of all patient rooms and nursing units on 2-East, 2-West, 3-East and 3-West. The hospital also built an annex in 1997 called the Robinson Medical Arts Building. This three-story facility houses two floors of physician offices, The Rehab Center at Robinson and Robinson Radiation Oncology.

During this era, the hospital also began acquiring local health care organizations to provide additional services. In 1996, the hospital affiliated with Allied Health Rehab and created the Rehab Center, which now also includes a Sport Clinic and has offices in Kent, Ravenna and Streetsboro. In 1997, the hospital absorbed the Greater Portage Area Visiting Nurse Association and formed the department Robinson Visiting Nurse and Hospice. This organization helps individuals deal with life-threatening illness and surgery recovery at home.

The Millennium - 2000

Robinson greeted the new millennium with its first website, launched in 1999, redesigned in 2004 and again in 2010.

Construction momentum from the earlier decade continued with a new Emergency Department, now a level III Trauma Center, opening in January 2000. The newly renovated Cardiovascular Center opened in June and the new Birth Center at Robinson was unveiled in September. The hospital broke ground on a new Radiology Department in 2002, which began serving patients in 2003. Also in 2003, Robinson expanded services to Aurora with the addition of a new medical center. The hospital also redesigned front roadways and its main entrance appearance, adding a distinct copper-colored cupola in 2004.

The Robinson Memorial Foundation launched its first major fundraising campaign, Robinson Tomorrow, in 2003, which aims to raise $3 million by the end of 2007.

The turn of the century was also a time of rising health care costs and increased competition from hospitals in other counties. Robinson responded by forming cost-saving alliances with some of the top health care providers in the region. Officials cut the ribbon for Children's at Robinson, a pediatric in-patient unit affiliated with Akron Children's Hospital in 2005. In February of that year, the hospital also began a joint venture with Akron General Medical Center in radiation oncology. In 2007, the hospital became an affiliate member of Summa Health System, aligning it with one of the best health care systems in the country.

The hospital kicked off its first advertising campaign in 2005 with the slogan "Excellent Healthcare Where You Need It" emphasizing its convenient location - 20 minutes from anywhere in the county. The campaign continues to evolve, and features billboards, TV commercials and in-house displays. After one year of the campaign, the hospital was distinguished as having the most improved hospital image of any in the nation, as surveyed by the Jackson Organization.

Robinson Memorial's efforts to build off-site continue today. The Robinson Imaging Center at Kent opened its doors in 2006, offering state-of-the-art radiology diagnostic procedures. In 2006, the hospital broke ground on a second medical arts building on the main campus. This building will house the Endoscopy Center and a Cardiac Center of Excellence. Construction plans for a Brimfield medical office are currently underway as well as plans for a medical arts building in Streetsboro. Today, the hospital has 14 health affiliate practices and hospital centers in 11 locations.

Robinson Memorial Hospital also earned its share of recent accolades. The hospital achieved Magnet recognition status in 2006, becoming one of only 235 hospitals nationwide highlighted for outstanding nursing care.

Ninety Years Strong - 2007

In 2007, Robinson Memorial Hospital celebrated 90 years as a county-owned facility, 75 years as Robinson Memorial Hospital and 30 years at the Chestnut Street location in Ravenna. The hospital hosted a picnic for employees, volunteers, Auxilians, board members, distinguished guests and their family members. Children enjoyed inflatable slides, face painting and music. Robinson Memorial's President & CEO Stephen Colecchi and Board President Gordon Ober made statements to the crowd, and proclamations were presented by Ravenna Mayor Kevin Poland; County Commissioners Maureen Frederick, Chris Smeiles, and Chuck Keiper; State Representative Kathleen Chandler and U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, who also presented a flag flown over the Capitol Building in honor of Robinson Memorial Hospital. The evening ended in a 15-minute fireworks display.

Robinson Memorial Hospital joined University Hospitals in 2015, and became known as UH Portage Medical Center.

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