Summer had arrived early that year. It was hot...and it was crowded. Two people passed out from the heat. But what better place to get ill?
Over 2,500 people had turned out for the special event. New Bern City school students enjoyed a half-day holiday so they could be present at this historic moment in their county's history. The air hung heavy with a feeling of pride that overwhelmed the high temperature and oppressive humidity. It was April 22, 1963. Craven County Hospital was to be formally dedicated. Governor Terry Sanford had the honor of cutting the ribbon, and Mrs. Linwood Earl Barber of Vanceboro and her infant son were the first to be transferred from the old hospital and the first to be admitted to the new facility. (The patients were transported by the local ambulance service, which at the time was operated by area funeral homes.) This was, indeed, a historic day. Healthcare in Craven County was about to change dramatically...and it hasn't stopped changing since.
A few years earlier, a New Bern physician, Dr. Dale Millns, and two community leaders, Larry B. Pate and Robert Stallings, identified the crucial need in this area for one, full-service hospital. After convincing the county commissioners of the critical need, the Craven County Hospital Corporation was formed and purchased the 75-bed St. Luke's Hospital from the Sisters of Saint Joseph, who had run it as a private facility for many years. The purchase price for the building and all equipment was $55,000.00, but it would only be a temporary home for the new county hospital. (The beautiful, historic building, located on the corner of George and Broad streets in downtown New Bern, has been renovated and is now home to the Neuse Center for Mental Health.)
Millns, Pate and Stallings then began a crusade to convince the county taxpayers of the need for a new, modern facility. The crusade was successful. Every precinct, with the exception of Vanceboro, carried a bond referendum to allocate money to build the facility. Under the Hill-Burton Act, however, Craven County's population was not great enough at the time to justify the 100 beds the county wanted. Recognizing that Craven's neighboring counties were without a hospital as well, the population bases of Jones and Pamlico counties were included to attain the 100-bed mark. The old prison site on the Kinston Highway was given to the county by then North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges. Construction began. On April 22, 1963, the need was met; the dream realized. Residents of Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties now had their own modern, 100-bed hospital. Total cost of the new facility, equipment included: $2.1 million. The daily rate for a private room was $18.
In 1989, hospital leadership felt the need to update the image of the area's largest provider and chose the Craven Regional Medical Center name to better represent the continually extending reach of the growing organization. Now, nearly two decades into the 21st century, CarolinaEast Health System has grown beyond the perimeter of the old prison site, reaching as far west as Vanceboro and as far east as Cape Carteret and Jacksonville. The 350-bed CarolinaEast Medical Center, a full-service, acute care facility, still occupies the prison site, but one must look hard to find any resemblance to the original 100-bed hospital.
CarolinaEast Health System, committed to meeting the ever-increasing, rapidly evolving, healthcare needs of our region, has branched out and positioned itself well for the future. In addition to CarolinaEast Medical Center, the health system encompasses CarolinaEast Diagnostic Center and CarolinaEast Surgery Center, two freestanding facilities providing outpatient care, the fastest growing component of modern healthcare. CarolinaEast Rehabilitation Hospital, a 20-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit, CarolinaEast Home Care and several CarolinaEast Physician practices care for families and all phases of life from offices in four coastal North Carolina counties.
Last year, across the CarolinaEast spectrum, over 395,000 patient encounters made a difference. Today, CarolinaEast Health System is Craven County's second largest employer, boasting a staff of 2,500+ medical and support personnel and a payroll of over $193 million. CarolinaEast is proud of the care it shares and the recognition received for that quality. CarolinaEast Medical Center is a CMS Five Star Hospital and a recipient of several Healthgrades and Women's Choice excellence awards.
With few exceptions, CarolinaEast Health System has touched the lives of every family in this region.
Fifty-five years and 250 beds ago, a group of community leaders, committed to the availability of quality healthcare in this region, battled many foes to accomplish their goal of establishing Craven County Hospital. Today, the foes are very different and the battles increasingly complex. The community leaders who serve on the CarolinaEast Health System Board are different, but remain just as committed to quality healthcare.
The residents of coastal North Carolina can still be very proud of their hospital. CarolinaEast Health System. Experience our experience; feel our care.