mch_pic_history_groundbreakingIn 1947, most of the area that is now known as Arrowhead Woods was owned by the Los Angeles Turf Club, owners of the Santa Anita Race Track.

In June 1951, the Los Angeles Turf Club donated 4.5 acres of land including a newly completed hospital to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, an order of Catholic nuns dedicated to caring for the sick, orphans, and women and children in need. Santa Anita Hospital opened its doors, staffed by six Sisters of St. Joseph and fifteen doctors, nurses and technicians, and administered by the order’s Sister Mary Alma.

The hospital’s first patient was an expectant mother who arrived to find workmen clearing saw dust from the floor of the delivery room.  By the end of that year, six more babies had been born at Santa Anita Hospital.

When it opened its doors, the 30-bed community hospital was heralded as one of the most modern medical facilities in the United States, with two operating rooms, an emergency clinic, a delivery suite and 8-bed nursery, on-site laboratory, x-ray equipment and ambulance service.  The presence of a state-of-the-art hospital was touted to mountain visitors as a convenience no less valuable than the mountain shops and restaurants or the Village barber.

mch_pic_history_johnstonesRoss Johnstone was the hospital’s first ambulance driver.  In 1952, there was no such thing as a dispatcher: a call would come to the hospital and someone there would call Ross, who kept the ambulance at home. Ross and the ambulance could never be far apart.  When Ross, his wife, Charmaine, and their six children went to mass on Sundays, the hospital had the number of someone who lived across the street from the church. “He’d come over and tell Ross there was an emergency,” Charmaine remembers, “and we’d all have to find a ride home from church.”

By 1956, the hospital had become busy enough that Sister Alma started looking for volunteers to form an auxiliary to help the sisters with their duties.  There were 12 charter members of the Santa Anita Hospital Auxiliary, many of them wives of doctors and other hospital employees, including Charmaine Johnstone.

In addition to helping the sisters with patients and other hospital duties like admitting and discharge paperwork, answering phones and changing beds, the Auxiliary began fundraising for the hospital.

In 1965 the nuns decided to sell the hospital to the community.  Even as they do today, the residents of the mountain communities jumped into action.  A plan was developed to raise the money needed to buy the hospital from the Sisters of St. Joseph; and second, to create a stream of income that would guarantee its continued success.

The group, headed by Ross Johnstone, was formed to raise money needed to purchase the hospital.  They sought pledges from residents and business owners and created fund-raising events including a golf tournament and an art festival.

While they were busy raising money, the Council of Clubs, a group of community volunteers, campaigned to create a tax-supported hospital district to assure a source of on-going operational funds.  The drive, spearheaded by the efforts of Maryan Ray, succeeded in landing an initiative on the ballot in March of 1967. In that election, the new San Bernardino Mountains Community Hospital District was approved by 84% of voters.  The District became official in December of that year and on June 1, 1968 the name of the hospital was legally changed to Mountains Community Hospital from Santa Anita Hospital.

On November 7, 1989, 73% of the voters voted in favor of a four-year parcel tax to assist the Hospital operations.

On March 2, 1991 the Hospital achieved its first three-year Joint Commission accreditation and today MCH still boasts JC accreditation.

Throughout the years since its inception, the Hospital has continued to keep up with modern medical equipment advances while maintaining its beautiful original building.

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