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Click here to read an in-depth overview of the history of Skiff Medical Center, written by former CEO Steve Long.

Mary Frances Skiff Memorial Hospital founded in 1921

Mary Frances Skiff Memorial Hospital was dedicated on May 30, 1921, and named in honor of the late wife of Vernon W. Skiff, a prominent Newton business owner.

Mr. Skiff, the founder of the Jewel Tea Company, personally donated $100,000 for the project. An additional $70,000 was pledged by the residents of Newton. Construction began in 1919 and was completed in early 1921. The new facility was described in Modern Hospital magazine as one of the finest, most modern hospitals in the country. The first patient admitted to the hospital was Mrs. Lavina Lint of Mingo, on Jan. 15, 1921. Three days later, the first baby was born at the hospital. He was Max Dodge, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Dodge of rural Newton.

Early hospital serves Newton

As late as 1917, there was no hospital in Newton or Jasper County. In March of that year, the newly formed Newton Hospital Association leased a property in the 400 block of E. 2nd St. N. The property, known informally as the Caleb Lamb home, was remodeled into a nine-bed hospital. It opened on Dec. 30, 1917, and operated for four years until Mary Frances Skiff Memorial Hospital was opened.

Although no longer needed as a hospital, the home remained in use for nearly 50 years, serving as a dormitory for hospital nurses, orderlies and other staff. Its proximity to the hosptal allowed the staff to remain close to their work at all times, an important factor before automobiles were commonly owned. The home was demolished on Sept. 20, 1963, to make room for the Hunter Addition of Skiff Memorial Hospital.

F.L Maytag helps to rescue fledgling hospital

Although Vernon Skiff made good on his pledge of $100,000 to pay for the new hospital, the citizens of Newton nearly reneged on their pledge to raise $70,000 for the project. In 1927, six years after Mary Frances Skiff Memorial Hospital opened, a $40,000 debt still hung over the hospital, largely due to unpaid subscriptions and donations from the original fund drive. F.L. Maytag, founder of the Maytag Company and a long-time supporter of the hospital, came to the rescue.

Maytag agreed to a personal pledge of $250,000 to build a new YMCA, but only if Newton residents could retire the hospital debt. When he announced his plans, Maytag even pledged $1,000 to kick off the fund raiser, hoping others would follow and the hospital debt would soon be retired. Recognizing a ripe opportunity, the Chamber of Commerce quickly formed a 30-member committee headed by H.C. Korf, another staunch supporter of Skiff hospital who also played a key role in its construction. The committee launched a fund drive and within one week had raised $54,191. The hospital debt was immediately retired and Mary Frances Skiff Memorial Hospital was turned over to the city of Newton, debt-free.

A growing hospital for a growing city

Between the 1920s and 1950s, the city of Newton tripled in size; so had the number of patients at Skiff Memorial Hospital. To accommodate the growing need for hospital rooms, in December 1953 community leaders launched a campaign headed by Dr. R.W. Wood to raise funds for a new hospital addition. Within six months, they had collected $307,000, along with $184,500 in federal Hill-Burton funds. Within months, construction on the new East Wing began. When it opened in April 1956, the 45-bed wing increased Skiff's capacity to 101 beds.

Hunter Addition serves geriatric patients

Skiff Memorial Hospital was more than doubled in size in 1965 with the opening of the Hunter Geriatric Addition. The addition was made possible through a $400,000 bequest from the late Charles P. Hunter, a local merchant and lifelong Newton resident. Hunter's wish was to provide elderly guests with a comfortable, homelike atmosphere and pleasing environment, including areas for visiting, recreation and hobbies. Sickness was not a prerequisite for admission to the 40-bed facility. When it opened on Aug. 8, 1965, it was considered one of the finest geriatric centers of its time.

Other funding for the $1,030,000 project came from $150,000 in corporate donations, $100,000 from city taxes, $50,000 in individual donations and $330,000 from a federal Hill-Burton grant.

Unfortunately, the geriatrics unit fell an early victim to the dramatic changes in health-care funding in the early 1980s. Due to low patient census and declining reimbursements from the federal Medicare program, the hospital was forced to close the unit in 1983. Although the Hunter Addition space is used in an different way than originally intended, it continues to serve the health-care needs of the community.

Skiff grows with two additions in the 1970s

Between 1973 and 1976, Skiff Medical Center continued to modernize its facilities. In 1973, the hospital added a new ancillary wing at the east end of the Hunter Addition. It featured a new emergency room, X-ray department, laboratory, Medical Records department, and a new boiler room east of the new addition. The $900,000 project was financed through a federal grant and hospital revenues.

In 1976, Skiff completed an new patient wing on the east side of the hospital, connecting the 1955 addition with the emergency room addition. Twenty-six new patient beds were added, along with a new four-bed coronary care unit and air conditioning throughout the hospital. Funding for the project came largley from a gift of 16,000 shares of Maytag common stock given to Skiff in 1971 by the Maytag Family Foundation. When it was complete, the hospital had 124 available beds (58 for acutely ill patients, four for coronary care patients, 23 for surgical patients, 18 for skilled nursing care patients, nine for obstetrics patients and 12 baby bassinets).

Community support helps Skiff thrive in the 1990s

The 1990s saw a remarkable transformation in Skiff Medical Center's facilities, medical services, equipment and staff. The process began in 1991 when Newton voters approved $3.3 million bond issue. Private donors contributed another $1.5 million, and Skiff took on a $4.5 million loan. The money was used to give the hospital a complete facelift, build several new additions and invest in state-of-the-art medical equipment. The Ross Medical Arts building, named in honor of the late Skiff administrator Ronald R. Ross, was built in 1994 to house physician practices and the Skiff Rehabilitation Center.

Thus began an unprecedented period of growth and improvement for Skiff Medical Center. In the decade that followed, more than $15 million was invested in new facilities and equipment. The Ross Medical Arts Building was expanded twice to meet the growing demand for physician office space and outpatient therapy services. The hospital's entire medical/surgical floor, along with the emergency room, special care unit, radiology department and laundry, were completely renovated. Important services such as kidney dialysis and a permanent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit were added.

The thriving hospital attracted many new physicians, and the Skiff medical staff doubled within a decade. Thousands of Jasper County residents who once chose Des Moines hospitals and physicians returned to Skiff and its medical staff for their health care. As a result, the hospital prospered and continued to invest in improvements that will serve generations to come.

Skiff Medical Center becomes a member of Mercy Health Network

Following months of study and discussion on the benefits of combining health care operations, Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines completed the acquisition of Skiff Medical Center on July 1, 2015. Mercy Des Moines and Skiff hosted a Missioning Ceremony on July 14, 2015 to officially welcome the former city-owned facility to its new role in Catholic health care. Most Reverend Martin J. Amos, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, blessed the Skiff facility and offered a Blessing of the Hands for all staff.

Skiff Medical Center
204 N. 4th Ave E.
Newton, Iowa 50208
Phone: (641) 792-1273
Toll-free: (888) 792-1273

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At Skiff, the best care is close to home.
Skiff Medical Center, a member of Mercy Health Network, is located in Newton, Iowa. We provide services to Jasper County residents in all major health areas, including general surgery, orthopedic surgery, radiology, obstetrics, emergency medicine, hospice, home care, laboratory, respiratory, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The Skiff Specialty Clinic hosts more than 20 physicians specializing in cardiology, dermatology, ENT, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, oncology, pulmonology and urology.
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