History of Ozarks Healthcare

Ozarks Healthcare first opened its doors in 1959 as West Plains Memorial Hospital as a 42-bed facility serving 40,000 people with 60 employees. With 114-beds, today Ozarks Healthcare serves an 11-county area, employs 1,200 people, and utilizes the services of more than 100 physicians, including a strong core of primary care physicians and numerous specialists.

West Plains Hospital

When West Plains Memorial opened in 1959, it was the result of almost a decade of work, five years of campaigning and the efforts of thousands of people.

“For many years it has been the dream of some of the progressive people of this area to have a modern, well-equipped hospital in West Plains,” said original board member Catherine Castner in 1955. “However, to many persons, it was only a dream, thinking that only a miracle would make it come true.”

The miracle to make the hospital come true was the hard work of determined local residents who through their bake sales, pie suppers and donations of their hard-earned paychecks made the dream of the hospital a reality.

In 1957 they broke ground and in 1959, the community saw the result of their efforts as West Plains Memorial Hospital opened its 42-beds to serve the 40,000 residents of south-central Missouri. The hospital opened in March 1959 and on April 30 of that year, more than 3,000 people attended an open house and ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening.

Looking back over the beginning of the hospital and the campaign to build it, Charles Hall, the hospital’s first administrator, said this in its first annual report “The conception of the idea, the development and the growth of the project is a rewarding experience. Such good things seem to be generated in the minds of people with faith and purpose. Faith of this kind is contagious.”

Growing through the years

Throughout its half-century of operation, Ozarks Healthcare has grown from a 42-bed hospital to a 114-bed complete health care system, which programs include heart care, cancer treatment, behavioral health care, and rehabilitation services.

As the community grew, so did the hospital. In 1970, 24 beds, an intensive care unit, a treatment room, and a family room were added to the original building. A second expansion was completed in 1974 that fulfilled the need for cafeteria space, office space, and a waiting area. A third expansion project was completed in 1978. This time adding to the hospital 38 beds to the hospital, a new laboratory, X-ray department, physical therapy department, surgical suite, respiratory care, and emergency room services.

In the 1980s the hospital acquired Heart of the Ozarks Medical Equipment (H.O.M.E.) as a for-profit subsidiary, built the Doctor’s Pavillion, and opened a stress unit.

OZH Hospital in 2019

Recognizing that the hospital was serving much more than the West Plains area, in 1985 the board of trustees changed the hospital’s name to Ozarks Medical Center positioning the organization to become a regional medical referral center.

In 1989, OMC fulfilled another large need in the community by opening the Heart Care Center, including a cardiac diagnostic lab and a cardiac catheterization lab. According to the then administration, the catheterization lab was opened to treat an estimated 500 patients each year who previously drove several hours to receive cardiac diagnostic procedures.

In the 1990s, OMC underwent major growth, reaching out to outlying areas and expanding services. Several area clinics became part of the OMC system, including facilities in Winona, West Plains, Thayer, Gainesville, and Salem, Ark. In addition, OMC now has clinics in Mountain Grove, Mountain View, Alton, and Mammoth Spring, Ark. Also in the 1990s, the OMC Neurosciences Center opened, Riverways Hospice services began and OMC received accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

The external appearance of the hospital changed drastically in 1993 when a 47,000-square-foot expansion/renovation project was completed, providing new space for the medical/surgical floor, ICU, medical records, admissions, emergency department, mammography suite, gift shop and waiting room.

In 1997, OMC was awarded a state contract to provide mental health services for a seven-county region and OMC Behavioral Healthcare opened in the former West Vue Nursing Home.

The Shaw Medical Building opened in October of 1998 as home to the OMC Cancer Treatment Center, Rehabilitation Services and Imaging. It was named after Arch W. Shaw, a business leader, publisher and advisor to presidents, whose descendants have been instrumental in the progress of this area for more than a half a century. This includes supporting the development and growth of OMC, serving on its board of directors and contributing to the expansion of quality medical care. The two-story Shaw Medical Building encompasses approximately 30,000 square feet and was constructed at a cost of more than $7 million.

The next big expansion for OMC was in 2001 when the OMC Surgical Services facility opened. The facility houses more than $2 million worth of state-of-the-art surgical equipment.

In 2005, a major milestone was reached when open-heart surgeries began at OMC. Today, OMC Heart Care Services sees approximately 1,200 patients each month, including Cardiac Rehabilitation patients.

The Future of Ozarks Healthcare

Ozarks Healthcare is currently embarking on the largest expansion in the history of the medical system with an investment of approximately $70 million to expand the existing Ozarks Healthcare facility in West Plains along with upgrading the electronic health record to better serve more than 150,000 residents in south-central Missouri and northern Arkansas, who prefer to stay close to home to utilize quality healthcare services. 

2019 OMC Groundbreaking

The expansion is based on providing convenience for patients by placing more services under one roof.  The location of the expansion will connect the existing Shaw Medical Building and the current main hospital building housing almost all of Ozarks Healthcare's specialty clinics and ancillary services to one location, creating a centralized space for patients.

Ozarks Healthcare is not only expanding the footprint but also expanding its coordination of care by upgrading the information technology system to replace multiple electronic health record systems currently used.  This upgrade, known as Project 20/20, will provide the platform for all Ozarks Healthcare departments, primary care, and specialty clinics to see and update a patient’s record across care areas.

True to its original mission, “to provide exceptional compassionate care to all we serve,” Ozarks Healthcare is a community-owned not-for-profit medical center run by a local board of directors with over 1,300 employees, serving an 8-county area in south-central Missouri and north-central Arkansas.

Illustration of Ozarks Healthcare in 2021

Did you know?

  • In 1959, the original 42-bed hospital facility was built for a total of $700,000. In comparison, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents.
  • Before West Plains Memorial Hospital was built, area churches held “hospital Sundays.” More than 1,200 area residents pledged to give at least $120 to the project, or $10 each month for a year.