Laurel Regional Hospital celebrates 35  years

Laurel Regional Hospital celebrated its 35th anniversary May 1. From left are hospital President John Spearman; Vice President Trudy Hall; Laurel Mayor Craig Moe; hospital board chair and Laurel City Council President Fred Smalls; and Neil Moore, president and CEO of Dimensions Healthcare System. (Staff photo by Luke Lavoie / May 1, 2013)

Laurel Regional Hospital celebrated its 35th year of serving the greater Laurel community earlier this week with a small ceremony inside the hospital, which is located off Van Dusen Road.

And while the celebration on Wednesday was attended by many who've seen the hospital grow over the last three decades, some of the most poignant comments came from new hospital President John Spearman, who started at the hospital 10 months ago.

"Something I didn't fully appreciate when I started here, was just how deeply this community loves this hospital, and how strongly it is willing to fight for its success," Spearman said. "It's become clearer and clearer how much they really love this hospital and want it to succeed."

Spearman said it wasn't until he started combing through the hospital's history that he began to understand the community's commitment.

"There was a vision that emerged in 1969," Spearman said, referring to the Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital Auxiliary, which was formed in 1970, eight years before the hospital accepted its first patient. "It's pretty clear that auxiliary played a huge role in driving the campaign that led to this hospital."

Mayor Craig Moe, who's experienced the hospital's services first-hand, read a proclamation commemorating the hospital's service to the city.

"This is a great hospital," said Mayor Craig Moe. "Although it's right outside the city limits, I'm always very proud to talk about Laurel Regional Hospital."

The hospitalopened its doors as Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital on May 1, 1978.

In the first year, the hospital activated 102 of its 236 beds and admitted approximately 21,000 patients.

Last year, the hospital served more than 45,000 patients, and it now boasts a staff of 1,000, which is nearly three times the size of the original hospital.

And while there's no doubt the hospital has prospered over the years, it's had its fair share of hard times as well, including a stretch in the 2000s where the hospital's finances were on life support.

"I've seen a number of changes occur amidst these walls," said City Council President Fred Smalls, who has served on the hospital's board of directors for the past nine years and is the current chair. "But I never lost my sense of pride for being a part of this system."

Spearman said the hospital is currently under a period of transformation, one that that will test the mettle of the hospital and the community.

"I think this is an excellent time for us to articulate a new vision for this hospital," Spearman said. "But setting that vision is really not an easy task, we are really going to have to work to transform ourselves."