Coaldale State Hospital

Coaldale State Hospital

When mining started in the Panther Valley, injured miners were taken to local doctor's office. If he was hurt extremely bad, the injured was hauled to the miners home, deposited there and left to the miners wife to make him as comfortable as possible during those last hours of his life. An interesting thing is that they used the "Black Maria," wagon to deliver both the injured as well as the dead miners to their homes. When people saw the "Black Maria," coming up their street, they thought the worst. During the later years of mining in the Panther Valley, badly injured miners where taken by horse and wagon all the way up to Ashland State Hospital. The roads were in terrible shape, and if the injured miner was hurt seriously, the ride there usually did him in.

During early 1900, streetcars were utilized to haul the injured to Ashland or Pottsville. The ride was much smoother but it still took too much time to reach their destination. Because of this distance from Ashland or Pottsville hospitals, the Coaldale Hospital came into being. In 1909, the miners of the valley volunteered a full days pay for the construction of a hospital while the Lehigh Navigation and Coal Company through the efforts of the Superintendent Ludlow, donated a site for the building. The Coal Company also told the miners that every dollar they donated; the company would also match that amount. The location of the hospital was east of the village of Seek. The hospital would overlook the valley and was built in a very pristine area. This area was where John Moser had built his first home, which was the very first home in the area, which became known as Coaldale. The building was completed on July 11, 1910. The contributions amounted to $50,000. The structure was a three-story brick building and was originally built to accommodate 30 patients. The hospital soon averaged 68 patients. The hospital was divided into three wards; two for men and one for women. Because of the congestion, every available room was utilized at all times. Later, they enclosed the two large porches on the south side which gave the hospital eight additional beds.

In 1911, the interior of the hospital was destroyed by fire. All patients were taken to nearby houses to be treated. Luckily, the homes were empty at the time. Throughout the years, the hospital has been in continuous operation. In 1934 the majority of the patients were miners of the valley, and that there were more surgical cases presented than medical cases. In the men's ward at one point of time, there were a large number of broken limbs, nine of which were suspended from slings, swung from overhead. There were also a large number of burned patients. One was a survivor of the Foster tunnel entombment. At the time he was in the hospital suffering from burns sustained in the mine explosion. The laundry, laboratory, and dispensary are located in the basement. The dispensary, which is quite small for the work being done, has about 80 patients per day. A modern X-ray machine, classed as one of the best for those early years, a modern kitchen with all the latest equipment and complete refrigerating plant were all added. The first nurses in the hospital were; Miss V. Kazakewica and Miss Nellie Close. The first patient admitted to the hospital was Stephen Snikschak from Lansford who was admitted on July 14, 1910. In time new wards were added for burn victims, women and children, including an isolation ward and corridors. Being that the original capacity of the hospital was 30 beds, there wasn't enough beds for new patients so 10 more beds and six cots were crowded in, allowing scarcely enough room between each bed for a nurse to attend the patients.

When possible the overflow was taken care of by placing two patients in one bed, and other are asked to sleep on the floor with blankets. To eliminate this problem, the Board of Trustees limited the class of patients admitted. Because of this some patients had to go 25 or more miles away to other hospitals. In time the board had to recall this order. Dates of new buildings are the following; the original building was built in 1909, the new annex, in Sept. 1927, and the nurses' home in 1933. The employees originally numbered 15 and in 1934 numbered 59. The bed capacity was originally 30, and in 1934 was 92. John Prostovich of Poland, was the first man to die in the hospital. The opening of the new maternity department was in January, 1932. The first child born there was Daniel Conahan of Seek, born on January 1, 1932. In 1927 ground was broken for the Nurses Home. For some reason work on the building ceased in 1929 when it was almost completed. Probably because of the Great Depression, things like this were curtailed. This building stood vacant until 1933, when the Board of Directors managed to cut all the necessary red tape with the State Department, and then preparations were made for its occupancy. [1]

The hospital closed as a state general hospital in 1992 but is currently active in private hands, now being called St Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, operating in the St Luke's hospital system.