Hospital History

More than forty years ago, a commitment was made by the local community and concerned medical professionals to keep a medical facility open in the small town of Arcata, California. Because of the dedication of public-minded citizens of the North Coast, an Arcata-based hospital was able to continue serving the local community. The following relates this history of Mad River Community Hospital.

Trinity Hospital

1911 - The original Trinity Hospital was built on the corner of 13th and G Streets in Arcata. The hospital had 25 beds, a nursery and two sun rooms. The operating room was on the top floor, in order to get maximum lighting. The hospital was run by Dr. George McKinnon, a true pioneer who spent time in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Dr. McKinnon operated the hospital for 12 years and then sold it to Dr. Purlenky.

1925 - The Arcata Chamber of Commerce raised funds to purchase the hospital from Dr. Purlenky. The hospital was then staffed with four doctors and four nurses.

1927 - The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange ran the facility until a tragic fire swept through the hospital on February 3, 1943, causing extensive damage.

1943 (March 25) - Rebuilding began when a full city block at 14th and C Streets was purchased for the hospital by the Arcata Chamber of Commerce through contributions from the community. With extensive community support and donations, the Trinity Hospital was rebuilt in 1944 and operations were resumed by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

1968 - Two financial factors were setting the stage for what appeared to be the final chapter of Trinity Hospital: Humboldt State College (now University) announced they had requested funds to be provided in their 1969-1970 budget for the purchase of the Trinity Hospital site, and the Sisters of St. Joseph, after considering a plan to build a new hospital on donated land not far from Trinity, opted instead to consolidate their Eureka-Arcata operations into one hospital, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. Citing the lack of state and federal funds for modernization or expansion to a new site and the unfeasibility of continuing with the current facility, the Sisters announced they would close the hospital on June 30, 1969.

Arcata Mayor Ward Falor called a town meeting to discuss the future of Trinity Hospital. Out of this meeting, the Trinity Hospital Action Committee was formed, representing community members who were interested in the future of Trinity Hospital. They requested help from American Hospital Management Corporation (AHMC) in building a new hospital and operating Trinity Hospital until a new facility could be built.

Allen Shaw, President of AHMC, was impressed with the community and the physician support. In Fall 1968, AHMC and the members of the Trinity Hospital Medical Staff purchased 47 acres for the new hospital site from Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Machado, located at the north end of Arcata on the Mad River. Community-wide efforts were underway to purchase the old Trinity Hospital from the Sisters, and the arduous, political process of gaining State approval to build a new hospital began.

1969 (July 1) - With no interruption of services or employee layoffs, AHMC assumed the operation of Trinity Hospital from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Among the first improvements was the addition of the County's first Cardiac Care Unit.

1972 (October) - Without the assistance of state or federal funds, Mad River Hospital opened its doors with patients from Trinity Hospital transferred to the new facility.

Since that time, AHMC has sold its four other hospitals, thus managing only Mad River Community Hospital and devoting itself entirely to the people of northern Humboldt County. To this day, Mad River Community Hospital remains deeply committed to ensuring a choice in community-based health care on the North Coast.

North Coast residents continue to support Mad River Community Hospital as their hospital of choice in Humboldt County. This is clearly noted in the 2004 "What Patients Think of California Hospitals" Survey, conducted in partnership with the California Healthcare Foundation and the NRC+Picker Group. Mad River Community Hospital scored three out of three stars, an above average rating.