Panther Creek Valley Hospital “was built with a contribution of a day’s wages by the working men of this valley.”
Dr. E.E. Shifferstine, along with Reverend L.B. Norton and young John McElhenney, convinced the workers and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co. of the need for a hospital close to the mines of the valley. Work began and the hospital was opened July 11, 1910. Dr. Shifferstine was Superintendent and Surgeon-in-Chief. Mr. Baird Snyder, Jr., was president of the Board of Trustees from 1909-1912. It was accepted as a State Hospital January 28, 1912.
The original capacity of the Panther Creek Hospital was 23 beds, but it was overcrowded from the start. In the year ending June 1, 1912, there had been 40 patients admitted; in 1913, 51 patients; and in 1914, 50 patients. Some cases had to be refused. Private rooms and porches were used for charity work. Women and children were treated in the same ward. At times, three patients were accommodated in two beds. “Male patients suffering severe injuries were treated side by side with burned men, delirious patients, and those with offensive ulcers.”
Perhaps one wouldn’t mind the inconvenience of overcrowding, when he considered the cost. For the year ending May 31, 1912, the average daily cost had been $1.48. The next year it had risen to $1.66.
A training school for nurses was opened in 1912; and by May 1914, two student nurses had passed exams and were recommended for diplomas. Nine more students were already enrolled in the school. The nurses stayed in the hospital, sometimes using the attic rooms. Then in 1933, after a delay of six years, the nurses’ home was built. In later years this was connected to the main building and was used as a wing for some patients.
A new wing was added in 1924 and in 1950 the kitchen area was enlarged and a laundry was built. In 1952 a Miners Asthma Clinic was opened to provide therapy for those afflicted with Anthracosilicosis.
On October 14, 1970, ground was broken for a new hospital. Three years and one day later, the new building was dedicated. The five story structure included facilities for intensive care, coronary care, physical therapy and disgnostic techniques and has a capacity of 102 to 170. It has ample parking space, a spacious lobby, snack bar, offices and a dispensary.
The first patient admitted was the late Reverend Francis H. Pascoe of Coaldale and Mrs. Juanita Johns of Tamaqua was the first female patient. The son of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas J. Zenko of Palmerton was the first infant to be born on November 4, 1973.
Superintendents of the Coaldale State General Hospital were:
E.E. Shifferstine 1910-1935
Edward Murphy 1935-1939
John G. Scott 1939-1956
William B. Sheerin 1957-1961
J.H. Gildea 1961-1963
George Wenzel 1963-1968
R.J. Valentine 1968-1972
F.E. Wehr 1972-