Drs. G. W. Sammons and A. M Smith were the first physicians in Farmington, New Mexico. In 1910, they decided the community needed a hospital and purchased a four-room building to open an eight-bed hospital. They had two nurses who worked 12-hour shifts.
One decade later, the demand on the hospital’s services exceeded capacity. Concerned citizens formed the San Juan County Association and raised money to purchase the building and nine acres of land. In 1922, an addition was built that increased capacity to 16 beds.
From the Great Depression through World War II, the hospital struggled to exist as a community-owned enterprise. Community members made sacrifices to see that the hospital not only survived, but continued to provide remarkably good care in an area that was both rural and remote.
The hospital operated a farm and dairy to supply eggs, chickens, milk, and butter to the patients and also sold dairy products to the community. Nurses spent many after duty hours cleaning and painting with paint donated by local merchants. Church organizations raised money to furnish rooms, farmers would drop off baskets of fruit, board members would make up operating deficits from their own pockets, and several women in town with nursing experience helped out when the hospital was short of nurses.
In the early 1950s, the El Paso Natural Gas Company brought a pipeline to the San Juan Basin to deliver natural gas to California. Consequently, the oil field boomed and San Juan County's population shot up from 3,500 to over 12,000 in just two years. Farmington residents began raising money for a new and modern hospital. “Their vision was for a true community hospital capable of keeping pace with area growth and medical innovations. Putting their money where their mission was, they donated the land for a new building and raised the remarkable sum of $100,000—from a community of fewer than 3,000 people.” -The Daily Times, April 29, 2001.
San Juan Community Hospital opened its 44-bed hospital on July 1, 1952. The new facility was built at a total cost of about $500,000 from a combination of funds from a county bond issue, federal funds, and privately-raised donations. The San Juan County Association deeded the land and building to San Juan County. On August 29, 1952, the San Juan Hospital Incorporated was created. This newly-formed hospital corporation leased the land and building back from San Juan County on a 99-year lease at $1 a year.“So the mid-century hospital with its modern architectural design begins a new era in Farmington. With its room for major operations, one for minor surgery, its labor room, etc. and its modern equipment, many more miracles will be performed. No longer will ambulatory patients sleep in roll-away beds in the hall.” -Farmington Daily Times, Sept. 27, 1952.
Charles Martin, the new hospital administrator from Denver, Colorado, was instrumental to bringing in more physician specialties and creating programs that still impact the hospital today. One of his innovative solutions to understaffing was the hospital Auxiliary in 1952, a volunteer group that still plays a big role today. For more than 30 years, the organization ran the largest social event of the year in Farmington—the annual Charity Ball that raised money for new hospital equipment.
In 1956, a second floor was added to increase capacity to 107 beds. San Juan Community Hospital expanded its surgical and pediatric services and in 1960, the hospital received its first accreditation by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals. By 1973, rapid growth in the Four Corners made it clear that a major construction project for the hospital would be required. Voters approved a $6.8 million bond issue for construction of a new, modern five-story hospital to be built next to the existing hospital building, and an additional $3 million was approved in 1976. In July 1978, the new hospital opened with 143 beds. In 1977, the name of the hospital changed to San Juan Regional Medical Center to better reflect the growing scope of outreach and healthcare provided for the entire Four Corners area.
Since then, the hospital has opened several new facilities including the Outpatient Diagnostic Center, the San Juan Regional Cancer Center, and the Medical Office Building that houses San Juan Regional Heart Center, Internal Medicine and Pulmonology, Spine Center, and Pediatrics. San Juan Regional Medical Center celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010.
The great tradition of healing that started with Drs. A. M. Smith and G. W. Sammons and has been carried to the present day by countless healthcare heroes who will find fresh expression and renewed commitment in every generation.
Hospital Time Line