Several medical facilities opened in Palm Beach County during the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s to serve its growing population; they are presented here in chronological order. Today Dallas-based Tenet HealthCare Corp., owns Palm Beach Gardens, St. Mary's, and Good Samaritan medical centers, as well as Delray and West Boca medical centers, which opened later.
Southeast Florida State Sanitorium for Tuberculosis (TB) opened on Lantana Road in 1950, the second of four state tuberculosis hospitals built between 1938 and 1952. It was designed to serve 500 patients, with staff accommodations, on its sprawling 114-acre campus. The sanitorium was renamed A.G. Holley Hospital in 1965 for a member of the state tuberculosis board. As treatments improved and the incidence of TB decreased, the hospital’s occupancy decreased more than 50% by 1971. Since the mid-1980s, however, the disease has been on the rise, particularly in Florida. A. G. Holley, the last of the original American sanatoriums dedicated to tuberculosis, has been threatened repeatedly with closure.
Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach opened its doors in 1959 with 70 beds and a staff of 32 physicians and 65 employees. The facility has remained a not-for-profit hospital ever since. Bethesda was named for the healing pool in Jerusalem described in the Bible. In 1969 former residents of Boynton Beach sent a rock from the pool of Bethesda to the hospital; it remains on display in the hospital’s lobby.
John F. Kennedy Hospital, now JFK Medical Center, opened in 1966 on Congress Avenue in the seven-year-old city of Atlantis. The family of Paul Kintz, co-developer of Atlantis, donated 20 acres of pineapple fields for the site. The $3 million, four-story building opened as a not-for-profit community hospital with 150 beds. The facility was originally to be named Lake Worth Hospital; after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the directors voted to change the name, and it opened as the nation's first living memorial to its 35th president. Among the first to be admitted to JFK were 62 patients from the former Lake Worth General Hospital, a 75-bed facility that later closed. The first baby, an 8-pound boy, also was delivered on opening day. A $4 million expansion, begun in 1971, increased capacity to 334 beds.
In 1962 Gloria and Robert Drummond’s two young children, Debra and James Randall, were fatally poisoned at their home in Boca Raton. Had medical treatment been closer than Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, the children’s lives may have been saved. The Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League was formed to raise funds for a medical facility in Boca Raton. Although consultants advised that Boca Raton, then with 10,000 residents, would never warrant a hospital, the 18 founding league members persevered and raised $3.5 million. Boca Raton Community Hospital, nicknamed “The Miracle on Meadows Road,” opened in 1967 with 104 beds, a not-for-profit hospital to serve southern Palm Beach County. It was built entirely by community money, raised through special events such as the annual Fiesta de Boca Raton. By 1971, six floors were added, half of them did not receive interior improvements until 1977, during a $17.5 million expansion.
The City of Palm Beach Gardens, founded and owned in 1960 by John D. MacArthur, received a federal grant in 1964 under the Hill-Burton Act to assist in building a hospital. In 1968, the year of the world's first heart transplant operation, the City opened Palm Beach Gardens Community Hospital, later renamed Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Today’s long-time staff recalls when cows grazed just outside the building on Burns Road.
The 200-bed Doctors Hospital of Lake Worth was owned by 20 doctors when it opened on 10th Avenue North in 1973. The group sold the facility to the Hospital Corporation of America in 1980. After another sale and renaming, it closed down; today it is the site of a residential development.
In 1956 Salhaven Retirement Village opened east of the railroad tracks in Jupiter, on land that is now Jonathan's Landing; it included 125 rental units, a 43-bed Convalescence Pavilion, and a small outpatient clinic. When Salhaven failed in 1971, a consortium called Burning Foot, Ltd. purchased it, led by Dr. George Ford. In 1973 the group sold 600 acres east of the railroad tracks to Alcoa for Jonathan's Landing. They donated the remaining 30 acres to Palm Beach-Martin County Medical Center, a not-for-profit corporation formed by Drs. George Ford, Edwin Brown, and William Donovan.
The medical center took over Salhaven’s medical facilities; in 1976 they opened a new two-story outpatient center at the present site of Jupiter Medical Center, and in 1977, a new 120-bed Convalescence Pavilion. With support from several local residents, Jupiter Hospital opened in 1979 with 156 single rooms; it was renamed Jupiter Medical Center in 1984.
Comprehensive Alcoholism Rehabilitation Programs, Inc. (CARP) was founded by Peter Fairclough, a recovering alcoholic, in 1967; he served as its chief executive officer until 1978. CARP, a private, non-profit corporation, was the first publicly funded alcoholism treatment program in Palm Beach County. In 1972 Fairclough authored a proposal that earned the first grant awarded in Florida by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He used the funds to develop the first public-sector “Continuum of Care” treatment of alcoholism, including medical detoxification, inpatient treatment, a halfway house, and outpatient follow-up. Today CARP is one of the largest agencies of its kind in Florida and the principal public provider of alcohol and drug treatment services in Palm Beach County, including a Residential Assessment Center for homeless adults.
For more on Hospitals, see Timelines, Hospital Timeline.