Growing with Our Communities’ Healthcare Needs

Buchanan County’s first hospital was founded in 1917 in the one-time mansion of Civil War Captain D.S. Lee, to provide care for up to 12 patients at a time. Dr. J.H. McGrady and Dr. F.F. Agnew formed the first medical staff. They hired Minnie Chapman to act as head nurse and superintendent for $60 a month. Together, they provided a private room, board, and “general nursing” to a patient for approximately $8 a day.

From this modest beginning, after almost a century of service, Buchanan County Health Center has emerged. BCHC is a full-service, primary care community hospital with more than 3,000 patient visits each month.

The History Of Our Mission Statement

According to its mission statement, “Buchanan County Health Center will provide the best local care while leading the advancement of healthier communities.” The staff of 225 medical professionals strives to provide quality care to all Buchanan County residents while best managing the changing currents and future trends in healthcare industry.

This forward-looking philosophy has guided hospital leaders through the years. For example, in 1923, when the first elevator was installed – eliminating the need for surgical or obstetric patients to be “strapped on a litter … and carried by hand up and down the open stairway.” Or in 1968, when People’s Memorial Hospital first opened its doors in its current location, on the east-side of Independence. The 1970s were a decade of innovation and specialization in healthcare and the hospital responded opening physical therapy, pharmacy, respiratory therapy and ambulance service departments.

A Journey of Growth and Innovation

Change continued to arrive in the 1980s as more healthcare became focused on outpatient services. Soon, even surgery did not require a long hospital stay. To better meet these needs, People’s Memorial Hospital completed $1.25 million dollar project to improve emergency, specialty clinic, ambulance, registration, business office and medical records services.

By 1992, the hospital had completed a new long-term care center attached to the current standing building. Radiology services expanded to include mammography, CT and ultrasound and the number of physicians from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids offering services in the specialty clinic continued to grow. In 1996, the 24-unit Oak View Independent Senior Living Community was added.

Buchanan County Health Center began the 21st century by opening a Dialysis Center, expending the specialty clinic and becoming a Critical Access Hospital in 2002. In 2004, the $2.5 million dollar project Therapy & Wellness Center opened, bringing state-of-the-art fitness services including a gym, lap pool, and fitness class studio to the community and equipment investment allowed Radiology Services became 100 percent digital.  Soon after, BCHC added a digital MRI and MRI suite to its list of in-house Radiology Services.

To continue to provide high quality care to its patients, in 2008, BCHC undertook it largest construction project to date, an $8 million addition and renovation to the Emergency and Surgery Departments. This project was completed in March 2010.  In 2013, BCHC opened its first in-house MRI suite, allowing community members to opportunity to have additional state-of-the-art services completed locally.

Expanding Horizons: Renovation and Expansion

In March of 2016, BCHC embarked on a 74,000 sq. ft. expansion and remodel. Funded through local and USDA loans, this project accomplished the following:

  • Expansion and remodel of the Wellness and Therapy Department by enlarging the gym and studio space to allow for additional equipment and classes, renovated locker rooms, new and private therapy rooms for physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and cardiac rehab, along with a new entrance and updated registration area.
  • Completion of a two-story medical office building, serving as the home to the specialty clinic, primary care offices, Ryan Pharmacy, Auxiliary Gift Shop, and sleep study rooms, along with new front entrance and registration area, and remodeled kitchen and cafeteria for public dining.
  • Remodel and expansion of the surgical center, allowing for continued surgical growth with new procedure rooms and create pre and post-operative surgical rooms, providing more privacy and comfort to patients and their families.

Forever Expanding to New Heights

In January of 2017, Medical Associates of Independence (Primary Care) signed an agreement to join the BCHC organization and moved to the campus of BCHC in the fall of 2017. BCHC celebrated 100 years of healthcare in 2017.

In September of 2019, BCHC acquired a family practice in Oelwein, now BCHC Family Medicine – Oelwein.  Around the same time, BCHC broke ground in Jesup to open a new family practice location, BCHC Family Medicine – Jesup which opened in January of 2020.  In October of 2020, BCHC opened its first retail pharmacy location out of the Oelwein medical building; BCHC Oelwein Pharmacy.

BCHC’s commitment to providing the highest quality of health and wellness services to the communities of Buchanan County, Oelwein, and surrounding areas has never been stronger amidst growing healthcare needs.

COVID-19 Overcoming Adversity in Healthcare

In the winter of 2020, concerns of a pandemic swept the globe.  On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a world-wide pandemic.  Healthcare as we knew it would never be the same.  BCHC swiftly launched into action with special policies and procedures for the health and safety of its patients, community, and employees.  COVID-19 brought unique challenges to all aspects of healthcare and long-term care; however, BCHC faced adversity with innovative solutions and problem solving through the use of technology and teamwork strengthening our healthcare system during the most challenging time in our history as an organization.  Because of this, BCHC is a stronger organization today, and has been forever changed.

Investing in our community through continued growth.

On Thursday, July 6th, the Buchanan County Health Center Board of Trustees approved the final proposal to construct a new, two-story building onto BCHC’s existing facility for inpatient services, infusion services, and future growth.  This 37,000 square foot expansion instills BCHC’s ongoing commitment to provide the highest quality of health services to the communities of Buchanan County and surrounding areas amidst growing healthcare needs.

Set to be completed by early 2025. The major phases are as follows:

  • Partial demolition of existing facilities on the west side of BCHC’s campus, which includes the former dialysis center. BCHC remains committed to bringing dialysis services back to the community in a new location with updated technology and infrastructure.
  • Construction of the two-story building, which will include inpatient rooms on the second floor allowing a more private and comfortable stay for patients. Infusion services will expand on the first floor.
  • Renovation of a portion of the existing facility to allow for continued service growth and expansion.