Over the Hill

How Templeton's Twin Cities hospital came to be

Special to The TribuneJanuary 17, 2013 

Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

In 1971 the Paso Robles District Hospital had only one electrocardiogram machine. To some of you, 1971 may seem as long ago as the Dark Ages, but EKGs were already necessities then.

As you know, an EKG machine detects your heart’s electrical activity. Wires from the machine are tipped with electrodes, which a nurse sticks to strategic places on your body. The machine quickly writes pointy lines on a long strip of paper.

That strip of paper is an electrocardiogram, which tells your doctor important stuff about your heart.

In 1971 Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton hadn’t yet been built or even proposed. The area where it now stands was open farmland, maybe capable of one grain crop every other year.

Instead the North County had two smaller hospitals: the 21-bed, 50-year-old, County Hospital branch in Atascadero, and the 32-bed, 21-year-old, Paso Robles District Hospital.

And it was also in 1971 that the public learned that Paso Robles hospital had only one EKG machine. The hospital’s medical staff told KPRL radio that an emergency-room patient had recently needed the EKG machine when it was already in use elsewhere in the hospital.

So KPRL did what local stations do; it appealed to its listeners. It urged them to send in General Mills Betty Crocker coupons. A local sorority put collection boxes in several stores. Other clubs also collected the coupons as did hospital employees. People in other parts of the state also sent in coupons.

On March 11, 1972, KPRL received its 181,000th coupon. That was enough. In exchange, General Mills sent a check to pay for the EKG machine. It cost $945 including tax.

But the hospital still had many other bigger problems. It had been inspected that February by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation. It had a list of major deficiencies to correct. The little hospital couldn’t keep up with the advances in modern medical science.

In June the hospital’s board of directors took a swing at raising money to correct the deficiencies. They raised room rates about $3 per day. For example, a two-bed room was raised to $57 per day.

But things still looked hopeless. So, the directors decided to contact all North County doctors, the county supervisors and private hospital companies about building a new combined North County hospital.

That hospital was built. It opened in February 1977 on the same day the Paso Robles and Atascadero hospitals closed. It is Twin Cities Community Hospital, which now belongs to Tenet Healthcare.

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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