History of Hospital

History of Hospital in Coaldale
(Source: Bicentennial of the American Revolution, Coaldale, PA, 1976)

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-

The Opening of the "Panther Creek Valley Hospital"

(Valley Gazette, June 1980)

With Coaldale Hospital in the news in recent months because of threatened cutbacks in personnel and services, Louise Fox of Hometown has come up with some interesting items from old issues of The Evening Courier dating back to the days when the hospital first opened.

The Courier's issue of Thursday, July 7, 1910, announced that the hospital would open the following Monday under its superintendent, Dr. E.E. Shifferstine of Tamaqua. The Courier said the hospital "stands as one of the most modern hospitals in the country.

"From the start the Mine Workers of America backed the proposition,' the article stated, "and on two occasions when the board was in need of funds the men responded by donating a day's wages. The L.C. and N. Company also did all in its power to make the institution a reality and besides donating the beautiful plot of ground on which the building is erected, gave an amount equal to that donated by its employees."

At that time, incidentally, the hospital was not called the Coaldale Hospital. It was the "Panther Creek Valley Hospital."

The Courier noted that Dr. Shifferstine was a 1902 graduate of Tamaqua High School and later graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. After serving on the staff of Ashland State Hospital he studied medicine and surgery under the direction of the greatest surgeons in the world at Berlin, Germany, the Courier noted. He then returned to Tamaqua and opened an office as a general practitioner. Assisting him during July and August were two student physicians, Charles Glassmire of Tamaqua and Sidney Quinn of Lansford. Consulting physicians for the hospital were Dr. C.B. Dreher of Tamaqua, Dr. E.H. Kistler of Lansford, Dr. H.F. Irvin of Mauch Chunk and Dr. J.G. Zern of Lehighton.

Anna S. Kutzer of Llewellyn was the head nurse and was to be assisted by Veronica Kazakevicz of Shenandoah and Nellie Close of Gilberton. Other employees of the hospital included Mrs. William Boyle of Tamaqua, cook; Winfield Oliver of Tamaqua, clerk, and David Jones of Lansford, janitor.

Andrew Breslin was the contractor for construction of the building under a contract awarded in September of 1908.

“It has three wards, sufficient to accommodate 30 patients, while there are also five private rooms,” the Courier said.

In an article on the opening day, Monday, July 11, 1910, the Courier reported four patients were treated in the dispensary. They were David C. Morgan of Coaldale, John Mitchell of Lansford, F.P. Malarkey of Girardville and E.P. McGinley of Lansford.

An article in the Courier on the hospital finances reported that the treasurer of the hospital association was John R. Boyle and the secretary was William J. Butler. Auditing the accounts were C.C. Bonner and Albert J. Thomas.