On July 15, 1952, Forrest General admitted its first patient, Mrs. Fred Roberts of Purvis. Roberts gave birth to a daughter the following day. In 1952, the hospital staff included a total of 70 employees and 31 doctors, with a bed capacity of 90 patients.
Today, Forrest General is a 512-bed facility providing regional health services to a 19-county area. Forrest General is the area's largest employer, featuring a staff of more than 3,100 who make Forrest General what it is today - a leader in healthcare in South Mississippi. Forrest General's medical staff now comprises more than 300 physicians, the largest medical staff in Mississippi, outside the capital city of Jackson.
In the Beginning
- In 1946, the Jaycees Public Health Committee presented a formal statement to the Hattiesburg Junior Chamber of Commerce on the need for a new hospital. A year later, Forrest County voters approved a $350,000 bond issue to construct a new hospital. The money was matched with federal and state funding to build the original 90-bed hospital at a cost of $1.1 million.
- The hospital's bed capacity expanded to 100 in 1957 when 10 additional patient rooms were added to the building's fourth floor.
The Expansion Begins
- In 1963, just one year after Lowery Woodall was named administrator, Forrest General discontinued accepting county tax money to operate. The hospital since has operated on a self-sustaining basis. The following year, a new wing, the "B- Wing," was constructed,adding 60 new patient rooms and increasing bed capacity to 160.Forrest General became the first South Mississippi hospital to establish a cobalt unit in 1967, replacing the Linear Accelerator. Today's cancer treatment facilities include a state-of-the-art linear accelerator and various other capabilities in the detection and treatment of cancer.
- Phase I of the hospital's long-range expansion plan was completed in 1968. The new addition included new X-ray facilities, emergency treatment rooms, classrooms, nursing offices, a medical library, a family room, inhalation facilities and physical therapy facilities.The same year,
- Forrest General established the region's first Coronary Care Unit (CCU) for the treatment of heart patients.
- In 1969, Forrest General became one of several Mississippi hospitals to receive helicopter service as part of the CARESOM program. The Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District, which operates medical helicopter Rescue 7, later was formed to provide air transport to the area. Forrest General's Emergency Center remains the medical control facility for Rescue 7.
- Phase II was completed in 1970, adding a psychiatric unit, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), two new labor & delivery Rooms, nursery and post-partum rooms and 100 additional patient rooms. Phase II brought the hospital bed capacity to 260.
- Dr. Stoney Williamson, a Hattiesburg ophthalmologist, performed the first coreneal transplant at Forrest General in 1970.That same year, a pacemaker was implanted for the first time at Forrest General.
- Phase III, completed in 1972, added an additional 60 new patient rooms, bringing the bed capacity to 320 beds. In 1975, Forrest General continued to expand its heart care program, introducing remote cardiac monitoring.Remote monitoring allows EKG signals to be transmitted over telephone lines from other South Mississippi hospitals. The Swan-Ganz catheter, introduced in 1976, allowed temporary transvenous pacing of the heart.The hospital's diagnostic capabilities expanded in 1977 with the installation of a permanent computerized tomography (CT scan) unit.
- Phase IV was completed in 1977, adding 100 additional patient beds and several new hospital departments. The project brought the total bed capacity to 420. This phase also changed the hospital's appearance to what it is today, moving the front entrance of the hospital from its original location on 28th Avenue to its current location facing U.S. Highway 49.
- A year later, the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory was established for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.
- Phase V consisted of the establishment of two major free-standing centers. Pine Grove Behavioral Health, Forrest General's psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment facility, was established in 1984. That same year, the Lowery A. Woodall Outpatient Surgery Facility opened.
- Also in 1985, a milestone in heart care was reached when Dr. David Stephens, a cardiovascular surgeon, performed the area's first heart bypass surgery. Since that monumental surgery, thousands of cardiac bypass surgeries have been performed at Forrest General.
- Construction on Phase VI was completed in 1986, adding enlarged and renovated areas for surgery, radiology, labor and delivery, nursery and intensive care. The hospital's linear accelerator also was installed during this project. Phase VI also included the installation of a permanent extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy unit, revolutionizing the treatment of kidney stones. In 1987, Women and Children Center of Excellence, Forrest General's labor and delivery unit, began operations. A permanent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit was installed in 1988. MRI uses a massive magnet, radio waves and a computer to obtain images of the inner body.
- In 1993, the hospital began construction on the largest expansion project in its history. Phase VII added five additional floors to the tower wing of the hospital. The project included new patient rooms and additional space to accommodate needed diagnostic and support facilities.
Phase VII was completed in 1995. The project added 165 patient rooms and restored additional patient rooms that had been unused in prior years due to internal renovations.
- Construction on Phase VIII began in early 2000. This new addition included the addition of Forrester's Food Court and addition and expansion of the dining area and meeting rooms.
- This phase also included the addition of a new Chiller Plant, built to replace the existing chillers with larger, more energy-efficient ones.
- In 2000, expansion and remodeling of The Lowery A. Woodall Outpatient Surgery Facility added an inviting space which included new reception and waiting areas, two new operating rooms and amenities for patients and staff. This additional space helped resolve increasing demand for outpatient services.
- In late 2001, aggressive planning began to accommodate additional ICu, CCU, Post-Partum and Emergency services. The renovation portion of this phase included remodeling existing E.R. Rooms on the first floor, constructing a large ICU/CCU Waiting Room adjacent to these 2nd floor units, totally remodeling the existing Labor & Delivery rooms and relocating and expanding the Central Sterile department.
Phase I of Phase IX Addition:
- In late 2001, construction began to increase the number of Emergency Center Treatment & Trauma rooms. Phase I construction was completed in March 2004 which included a new Emergency Center registration area, four new Emergency Center waiting areas, covered exterior canopy with additional patient parking, new helipad, new parking lot for Emergency Center patients and seven new Critical Care Unit (CCU) beds on the second floor. In 2005, twelve Neurosurgery beds were opened on the second floor, adjacent to the CCU unit.
Phase II of Phase IX Addition:
- Opening in April 2006, this phase of the project increased the Emergency Center to ten trauma rooms and a new emergency entrance to accommodate ambulances. This phase of construction also added two CT rooms and 20 new ICU beds, bringing the total of ICU and CCU patient beds to 36.
- In January 2006, construction of the Family Birthplace began, located on the fourth floor of the new Phase IX addition. This part of the Phase IX addition included a 36-bed post-partum unit. This extensive project was completed in the fall of 2008 and consists of 12 new post-partum rooms, designed to be a soothing atmosphere for both patient and family, with private showers and sleeper sofas. The new unit also includes a new nursery, private lactation room and two family waiting areas.
History of Leadership
- Reagan Long was named the hospital's first administrator and was succeededin 1953 by W.C. Kingsberry. In 1962, the hospital's board of trustees named Lowery A. Woodall as administrator (later named executive director).
- In 1996, following the completion of the Phase VII project, Lowery Woodall retired as executive director and the Board of Trustees named William C. Oliver as executive director.
In the spring of 2009, Bill Oliver announced that he would retire effective June 30, 2009. He also announced that Evan Dillard, who previously served as the hospital's Chief Operating Officer, would become Forrest General's new CEO. Following his retirement, Bill Oliver continues to assist the hospital in the areas of philanthropy as President of the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation.
Other Additions, Expansion and Renovations
- In 1990, Forrest General established the Pine Grove Life Focus Center at 1611 S. 28th Ave. Today, Pine Grove operates regional counseling centers in Hattiesburg, Laurel, Gulfport, Jackson and McComb.
- In 1992, construction was completed on a new 24-bed adolescent psychiatric and chemical dependency wing at Pine Grove. Ten additional adult treatment beds also have been added to Pine Grove.
- In 1996, construction was completed on a new multi-level parking garage. The new facility adds additional parking spaces for patients and visitors, while improving accessibility. Motorists may enter the building from the parking garage at the lower, middle and upper levels. New lobby areas also were designed to accommodate patients and visitors.
- The organization began its implementation of EPICS (Electronic Patient Integrated Care System) in 1995. This system is designed to enhance delivery of care through improved information management from an electronic integrated patient record.
- The Forrest General Cancer Center began operations at the corner of Arlington Loop and 28th Avenue in 1999. This facility is the cornerstone of Forrest General's cancer program, providing an integrated approach to cancer treatment through a comprehensive continuum of education, treatment and support services.
- Forrest General purchased the Dunhopen Inn, located on Veteran's Memorial Drive in Hattiesburg, and renovations began immediately to transform the inn into a comprehensive residential treatment facility for women. The Pine Grove Women's Center opened its doors in October 2005.
Today, Forrest General enjoys a reputation for quality health care services rivaling any health care system in the southeastern United States. It now is one of the most advanced and well-equipped medical centers in the region. In the years ahead, Forrest General will continue to expand with South Mississippi's changing health care needs.