McKay-Dee Hospital

(801) 387-2800Map4401 Harrison Blvd.Ogden, UT 84403

LDS Church Presiding Bishop, LeGrand Richards, chairman of the Hospital's Board of Trustees, decided a change in management philosophy was indicated. He recruited Kenneth E. Knapp, a United Airlines executive, and enrolled him in hospital administration classes at Northwestern University. After serving preceptorships in hospitals in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, Mr. Knapp became administrator of the Dee Hospital in April, 1951.

He found the Dee in precarious financial condition and took firm steps to alleviate the situation, consolidating departments and closing patient units whose census had fallen below an efficient operating level.

At the same time, he invited other community services to lease space in the building and this income bolstered the Hospital's financial position.

Consolidating departments enabled a reduction in employees. Going through the personnel records, Mr. Knapp found Dee Hospital employees were not covered by Social Security.

"It was a situation that needed attention, especially with many over-age employees. We carried them for six months until they could qualify for social security. They were then able to accept the necessary cutbacks with some feeling of security," Mr. Knapp explained.

Renovation and New Services

By August, just four months after he became administrator, Mr. Knapp began planning a floor- by-floor renovation of the Hospital. "I put away half of every dollar that exceeded our direct expenses," he remembers. "Then, as soon as I had a few hundred dollars, I'd install a bathroom or add another convenience that made hospitalization at the Dee a little more attractive and comfortable for the patient."

Ever-tightening building and fire codes forced other, more extensive remodeling. For this, the Hospital borrowed money from the LDS Church.

"We were determined to stay within our income," Mr. Knapp says. "To do this it was not unusual for management people to wear many hats and even come back in the evening to wield a paintbrush."

Under Mr. Knapp's administration, ten years of remarkable change and progress followed. A partial list includes:

  • Psychiatry division established, the first in a Utah general hospital.
  • Physical Therapy department started under supervision of a registered therapist.
  • Personnel department established.
  • Inservice department for continuing education begun.
  • Childbirth education classes started.
  • Emergency Room opened.
  • Outpatient department organized.

With the polio epidemic of 1951 taking lives and crippling others, Mr. Knapp added a polio ward especially equipped with an iron lung and recruited nurses willing to work in this area.

"That's when I fell hopelessly in love with all nurses," he says, "and I've never had reason to alter that feeling."

$523,000 Renovation

By April, 1952, the Board of Trustees approved a 10-year, $523,000 modernization program. It was to include a new neuropsychiatric division, an expanded radiology department with new equipment, a new nursery, and additional bathrooms in the maternity division. New pediatric and orthopedic areas were planned, along with an improved central service system, two new surgical suites and a post-operative recovery room.

Other new patient services would include an enlarged blood bank, piped oxygen, and an intercom system between patient rooms and nursing stations. Also planned were new administrative offices, new medical staff lounge and library. The elevators would be modernized and the entire hospital redecorated with new lounges and waiting areas.

In the meantime, Mr. Knapp was working closely with the medical staff to formulate a constitution and by-laws that would set standards for expanded residency and intern training, so that the Hospital could apply for accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals – the first Utah hospital to do so.

In June, 1953, Mr. Knapp branched out in yet another direction. In an effort to persuade trained nurses and other women with young families to work in the Hospital, a day nursery was opened in the Dee Nursing School building, where mothers could leave their children while they worked at the Hospital. This was the fore-runner of the present D Play School.

Ever-expanding technological developments coupled with population growth necessitated eleven major additions to the Hospital during the 1950's. These included wings on the north, south, east and west, two mechanical boiler units, an addition to the nurses' home, a laundry and kitchen, a fifth floor for the radiology department, clinical laboratory and nuclear medicine. In addition, dozens of other lesser remodeling projects were completed.

An anesthesia department was added in 1953 with the physicians-anesthesiologists working for the Hospital; a Volunteer Auxiliary was formed in 1954; radium therapy on a regular basis was begun in 1955; surgery, the delivery room and the top floor of the Hospital were air-conditioned and living quarters for residents and their families were completed in the former Nurses' Home.

Nursing Education Study

In 1955, the Dee School of Nursing and Weber College participated in a national study program with Columbia Teacher's College and six other community hospitals and their college affiliates – Fairleigh-Dickinson College, Rutherford, NJ.; Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, Mich.; Orange County Community College, Middletown, N.Y.; Pasadena City College, Pasadena, Calif.; Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Va.; Virginia State College, Norfolk, Va.

As a result of the study, nursing's need for more medical and scientific knowledge was recognized. The Dee Nursing School was phased-out, Weber College took over the classes and the Hospital became the setting for clinical experience at the patient's bedside.

In its 42 years of existence, the Dee School of Nursing had graduated more than 700 nurses who became the backbone of the nursing profession in Northern Utah. The new program introduced the two-year Associate Degree concept to the field of nursing education.

New Hospital

As technical knowledge increased and the mechanics of delivering health care became more complex each year, the Board of Trustees began to ask, "Is it wise to keep spending sizable sums on this facility or should we consider building a new hospital?"

With this question in mind, a thorough examination of the physical structure of the Dee, now 47 years old, was undertaken with particular attention paid to changing fire and building codes. A nationally-recognized consultant was also asked to review the community's health care needs and make a recommendation.

As a result of these two studies, the Board with the concurrence of the Presiding Bishopric, recommended to the First Presidency of the LDS Church that a new hospital be built. A 27-acre tract of land at 3900 Harrison was acquired and, in February, 1958, Presiding Bishop Thorpe Isaacson announced that a new $5-million hospital would be built.

"Operation of the Dee has become difficult and burdensome," Bishop Isaacson said. "it is no longer considered feasible to try to bring the old building up to acceptable standards."

Community Fund Drive

Mr. Knapp was named general chairman of a committee to raise $1.5-million toward the cost of the Hospital; the rest of the expense to be borne by the Church.

In a letter to members of the fund drive committee, Mr. Knapp referred to the appeal as "a great opportunity for the community to elevate the quality of the hospital's service to its own benefit." He recognized the difficulty of the undertaking, saying, "nowhere in the State has a campaign of such proportions been conducted in behalf of a community hospital."

Lack of community interest was evident immediately, and reports of opposition reached Bishop Isaacson, who was also chairman of the Hospital's Board of Trustees. On August 11, 1958, Bishop Isaacson told the Board of Trustees that planning for the new Hospital had been suspended.

"Only Ogden itself can get the project off the ground again by showing some indication of unity and a desire to build a new hospital," he said.

More than two years passed before those recognizing the need brought about a ground- swell of interest in the proposed new facility. In June, 1960, it was reported to the Board that a committee of the medical staff had met with the administrator on two occasions to discuss the new Hospital. They had prevailed on civic leader W. Rulon White to head a committee that was willing to seek a million-dollar commitment from the community.

In July, Mr. White, Mr. Knapp, Lawrence T. Dee, Stake President T.O. Smith and Dr. John Dixon met with Bishop Isaacson. They reported the backing of Standard-Examiner publisher A. L. Glasmann for the proposed hospital.

It wasn't until April, 1962, however, that a new Presiding Bishop, John H. Vandenberg, announced Keith Wilcox and Associates had been selected to begin architectural work on a new hospital, now estimated to cost $8-million. The community would be asked to raise $1.6 million.

Continued Progress

In the meantime, the Dee continued to progress. In 1959, one of the first intensive care units in the region was opened for the care of critically ill and gravely injured patients.

Remodeling of the Dee continued because of growing patient loads, and the former Nurses' Home was converted to experimental units to test the first Multi-Level Care concept, where patients were placed according to the amount of care their illness demanded.

The Dee family's continued support of the Hospital was evidenced again in the spring of 1963 when a new Home Care program was begun, with the Annie T. Dee Foundation underwriting its operation. It was the first hospital-based home health care program in the State and was not duplicated until the late 1970's, when the federal government sponsored a similar program in the rural area around Richfield.

A New Name

The Hospital Development committee suggested, in 1963, that the proposed new hospital be named in honor of LDS Church President David O. McKay, a Weber County native. Hospital Board member Lawrence T. Dee said this seemed "fitting and proper" to the Dee family, as it was President McKay who brought the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital into the Church Hospital System, and because the Dee would continue to be operated as a rehabilitative and convalescent hospital.

By 1965, the Volunteer Auxiliary was also deeply involved in projects to raise $80,000 it had pledged toward the new Hospital. Physician pledges, by this time, had risen to $265,000, to be paid over a five-year period. Dr. George Fister was the very effective chairman of the medical staff fund drive.

Memorial gifts of $100,000 from the Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Charitable Trust and $75,000 from the Annie T. Dee Foundation were made to the David O. McKay Hospital Building Fund in 1965 and the combined pledges of the Hospital family – employees, physicians and volunteers – reached $450,000.

Patient care continued to advance, as a unique "blood assurance" program was begun to ensure a continuing supply of donated blood to the Hospital Blood Bank. A new Social Services department was begun and purchase of equipment costing in excess of $36,000 was authorized for the Cardiopulmonary Laboratory.

In August, 1965, Bishop Vandenberg told the Board of Trustees that final plans for the 380-bed hospital would be ready by the end of the month with bid openings on November 10. The Hospital would require 730 calendar days to be completed. The fund drive goal was in sight with $728,000 pledged and an additional $150,000 expected but not yet formalized.

24-hour Emergency Service

Mr. Knapp told the September Board Meeting that he had a plan to improve the hospital's emergency service and the Board authorized him to begin discussions with a group of physicians who might be interested in providing the emergency room with 24-hour physician coverage - the first in Utah.

Bishop Vandenberg announced in October that a new time schedule for bidding the Hospital was necessary and that bids would not be opened until January 26, 1966.

By the November Board Meeting, Stake President Albert Bott was able to say $912,000 had been pledged; $325,000 of the sum was in bequests from charitable foundations and in wills of private individuals.

Bids were opened in January and on April 20, 1966, the First Presidency authorized construction of the Hospital at a cost of $9,971,785, including furnishings. Okland Construction Company of Salt Lake City was low bidder at $8,198,000.


President McKay

A formal ground-breaking ceremony was held on Friday, April 23. The field at 3900 Harrison Boulevard was soaked from continuing spring rains and the sky was overcast. However, when President McKay threw the switch to detonate the dynamite that signaled start of construction, the sun broke through the low-hanging clouds as if in benediction.

During the ceremony, the hope was expressed that President McKay would be able to return for the grand opening of the Hospital. The venerable Church leader, then 93 years of age, replied, "I don't know where you'll be, but I'm not going any place and I plan to be here!"

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