For many years, White County has
been a center for health. Initially, the area contained one hospital run by a
nurse in her five-room home. But healthcare has changed dramatically. Today,
White County Medical Center offers two state-of-the-art facilities with a
combined total of 438 licensed beds. Below is a timeline highlighting major
events in the history of medicine in White County. For a more complete account,
please reference the coffee-table book that has been published in honor of White
County Medical Center’s 40th anniversary. It is available in WCMC’s
marketing department. For more information, call (501) 380-1050.
- 1853—Dr. James C. Holland, who was perhaps the first
physician to live and practice medicine in Searcy, came to town.
- 1920—Searcy’s first hospital, Wakenight Sanitarium, was
started by Mrs. O.C. Wakenight, Dr. A.G. Harrison, and Dr. S.T. Tapscott.
- July 1940—Dr. M.C. Hawkins opened Hawkins Clinic
- 1943—Dr. Porter Rodgers, Sr., purchased Wakenight
Sanitarium. The facility’s name was changed to Porter Rodgers Hospital.
- 1947—An addition to Porter Rodgers Hospital was
completed. This new annex consisted of fifty rooms, and it increased the
hospital’s capacity to seventy patients.
- November 28, 1961—White County citizens went to the
polls to vote on the construction of a county-owned hospital and the proposed
nine hundred thousand dollar bond issue. The people voted to build the
hospital, but they defeated the two mil tax that was needed to construct the
facility. The county hospital could not be built.
- June 30, 1963—Dr. Martin Hawkins closed the hospital
division of the Hawkins Clinic Hospital. All patients were transferred to
Rodgers Hospital. Rodgers Hospital was the only hospital in the county.
- September 10, 1963—Voters approved the construction of
the county hospital and the bond issue.
- August 1, 1965—A ground-breaking ceremony began
construction at the Race Street location.
- January 16, 1967—White County Memorial Hospital admitted
its first patients.
- 1968—Porter Rodgers Hospital changed from a proprietary
hospital to a publicly-traded for-profit institution owned by Intermed
- May 1969—The WCMH board petitioned for a special
election to approve a $653,500 bond issue that would be used to put the third
floor on the hospital. In a familiar situation, the voters approved the
construction but defeated the tax to finance it. Another election was held in
September, and the county decided by a sizeable majority to approve the tax.
- 1971—Construction began on WCMH’s third floor.
- 1972—Intermed International sold Porter Rodgers Hospital
to a company called Chanco. Chanco later became known as American Medical
- March 1972—WCMH’s third floor became operational, adding
80 beds and a four-bed intensive care unit.
- 1975—Porter Rodgers Hospital opened a new facility at
1200 South Main Street. The hospital’s name changed to Central Arkansas
General Hospital, and it was later shortened to Central Arkansas Hospital.
- 1983—WCMH expanded the emergency room and added a
critical care unit.
- 1983—A wing was added to CAH, which included a critical
care, inpatient rehabilitation, and two nursing stations.
- 1989—White County Memorial Hospital became the first
hospital in Arkansas to offer labor, delivery, and recovery in one convenient
- 1992—The cafeteria, rehabilitative center, and
outpatient care center were updated at White County Memorial Hospital.
- 1993—WCMH remodeled the first floor.
- 1995—White County Memorial Hospital became White County
Medical Center, a 501(c)3 corporation.
- 1995—American Medical International sold CAH to National
Medical Enterprises, Inc. (NME). Almost concurrently, NME was renamed Tenet
Healthcare Corporation. Tenet was the second largest investor-owned
healthcare provider in the United States.
- December 1996—Ground was broken for WCMC’s largest
construction project to date: the north wing. Plans called for a 74,000
addition to the 88,000 square-foot facility.
- 1997—Central Arkansas Hospital added the cancer center.
- 1998—WCMC completed the north wing addition, which
included four stories extending from the present facilities that could be
accessed from Moore Street. This $16 million expansion provided additional
private rooms, an enlargement of the emergency department, and more
- 1998— The White County
Outpatient Surgery Center was constructed, which provided the area with the
first ambulatory care facility.
These services are located on Moore Street in the building behind
Searcy Medical Center.
- 1998— Central Arkansas Hospital began a construction
project that added the new façade, the heart center, and the cardiac
- 1999—WCMC purchased River Oaks Village.
- 2000—Oscar Stilley, a Fort Smith attorney, wanted to
place a referendum on the general election ballot that would force the sale of
several Arkansas non-profit hospitals. On September 29, the proposed ballot
initiative petition was ruled to be contrary to state law.
- August 21, 2002—WCMC broke ground for the south tower, a
$38 million dollar project. In this largest
project in the hospital’s history, a total of 200,000 square feet was
added to the facilities.
- September 2, 2003— Tenet announced that CAH had been
sold to Triad Hospitals, Inc.
- 2004—The south tower of WCMC opened. Several areas of
the hospital received new facilities, including the New Life Center, critical
care units, surgery and recovery, outpatient services, physical therapy,
dietary services, laboratory, and materials management.
- August 1, 2005—Medical Center West opened. At this
location, WCMC offers an open MRI, CT scanner, physical therapy, and durable
- September 14, 2005—WCMC announced the acquisition of
Central Arkansas Hospital from Triad Hospitals Inc. of Plano, TX.
- 2006— White County Medical Center purchased the most
expensive single piece of equipment in the hospital’s history: a 64-slice CT
imaging system. This 64-slice CT performs traditional CT functions but also
offers the most sophisticated cardiac imaging system in the world. With this
addition, WCMC continued its commitment to providing the service area with
- October 2, 2006—The inpatient hospice unit at WCMC South
began accepting patients.
- 2006— The hospital’s medical staff consists of over 150
physicians representing a wide variety of specialties. WCMC is the
second-largest employer in Searcy, with over 1400 associates living, working
and raising families in Searcy and the surrounding communities.