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Hospital to fete 30th year


For most of two decades, community leaders in Glen Burnie struggled to raise the money to build a small hospital to serve their growing community. This week, they will celebrate North Arundel Hospital's 30th anniversary by opening a $1 million addition to its surgery department.

The renovation and expansion doubled the size of the department, adding seven suites for operations and updating an equal number. James R. Walker, 51, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, said the additional suites will help reduce the wait for surgery.

"For a number of years, we've been extremely challenged in the operating suites in terms of not being able to meet the demand," Mr. Walker said. The demand has been so great that the hospital has been scheduling some elective surgeries at 10 p.m., he said.

A group of community leaders headed by local businessman Wilfred T. Azar began raising money for the hospital in the 1950s.

"People in the community didn't want to go to Baltimore or drive to Annapolis for health care. They wanted a hospital they could call their own," said Kevin Murnane, a hospital spokesman.

But it took until 1961, when the county contributed $1 million from bond issues, that the project began to move forward.

Two years later, the steel framework for the $2.4 million hospital took shape on the southern edge of Glen Burnie.

The hospital opened July 4, 1965, with 107 beds and a three-cubicle emergency room.

Since then, it has expanded four times and grown into a health care system with several primary care and satellite facilities throughout the northern and western sections of the county. The staff has grown from 30 to 350 doctors and from 175 to 1,800 employees.

In the hospital's first year of operation, doctors admitted more than 4,000 patients and the emergency room handled nearly 26,000 cases.

Now, doctors admit an average of 15,000 patients a year and treat 55,000 patients a year in the emergency room.

"That makes us one of the busiest emergency departments in the whole state," Mr. Walker said.

The celebration will begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday as hospital officials unveil a new logo and sign.

An oval-shaped logo will be replaced by one with an electrocardiogram strip above the hospital's name as part of an attempt to update the organization's image, Mr. Murnane said. "We wanted to let people know with all the changes we've made, we're innovative and modern," he explained.

In addition to the new logo, hospital officials are to bury a time capsule full of health care items by the west side lobby. The capsule is to be opened in 20 years, during the celebration of the hospital's 50th anniversary.

The hospital is offering free parking in its parking garage all week.

On Thursday and Friday, the hospital will throw a "birthday party" for employees.

Sunday, hospital officials expect 500 to 1,000 people when they cut the ribbons for the new operating rooms and hold an open house from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There will be surgical displays, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, a pediatric play program, gifts and refreshments for visitors.

The improvements are in addition to others the hospital has made recently or plans to make.

Six months ago, North Arundel opened an expanded endoscopy unit, increasing the number of rooms from three to five.

The unit also has 10 recovery beds and a waiting area, part of a $13 million renovation and addition plan the hospital started two years ago.

In two months, the hospital expects to start construction on a birthing center on Ritchie Highway in Arnold.

The center will be staffed by nurse-midwives and an obstetrician, Mr. Walker said.

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