She was not your average administrator. Multiple news articles include photos of Good Samaritan Hospital’s first administrator wearing a starched white uniform and a Flossie cap.
The Flossie was name after Florence Nightingale who a century prior had introduced modern standards of nursing care while aiding patients during the Crimean War. Just like Nightingale, Virginia Welch set out to standardize the care for Benton County residents while at the helm of the new nonprofit hospital.
It was two years after the hospital’s birth, or a mere 73 years ago, when Virginia Welch was officially promoted from head nurse to Good Samaritan Hospital’s first administrator, she had been the acting administrator shortly after the conversion. Before that, Welch had been hired as the head nurse in 1947 while the hospital was still a failing for-profit entity.
The year she officially took the reins, remodeling was underway on a new wing of surgical, medical and pediatric beds. This first remodel of Good Samaritan 27th Street and NW Harrison Boulevard location also included office space and a lobby. The construction shifted the main entrance of the hospital from south side of building to the NW Harrison Boulevard.
“From that time to this, Corvallis has had two Good Samaritans,” said the late Bob Ingalls, Corvallis Gazette-Time publisher during her retirement banquet in 1967. “Beginning then, Good Sam’s prognosis looked excellent. Virgie was a skilled nurse, Virgie pitched right in and began to look for ways to upgrade the efficiency of the hospital.”
This was fraught with challenges little and big. One instance that Ingalls shared was when Welch gathered up multiple broken typewriters from around the hospital. When she went to trade them in at a local store, she only then learned the typewriters were not owned by the hospital but on loan from that store.
In 1953, patients were admitted to the new hospital wing. Welch was overseeing a hospital with 88 beds and a medical staff of 25, however with the post war population booming in Corvallis a bed shortage forced staff to soon find other areas to board patients including in the hallways.
In fact, the very next year Welch was told her the hospital kitchen would fail a health inspection within a year Good Sam had financed a remodel that was finished in May of 1956 for the kitchen.
While facing these challenges Welch still had time to facilitate creation of the hospital auxiliary, inspiring local volunteers to to serve and assist the hospital in promoting the health and welfare of the community.
“Welch was an active participant at the inception of the auxiliary and in some instances actually participated in make motions and voting during the monthly meetings,” wrote current auxiliary member Sharon Hutchens.
Within the first 10 years of the auxiliary the group had raised more than $7,000 with their main fundraiser, a spaghetti feed. This money helped pay for medical supplies and equipment including a surgical table and a Hubbard Tank.
That same year Welch earned another “first” in the community. She was named Benton County Citizen for 1954. Welch was the first women to receive the annual honor given by the Benton County Chamber of Commerce.
The next project Welch oversaw was the 2-west addition in 1958. The construction included a new central supply room, recovery room, an additional laboratory and pharmacy space, an air-conditioned surgery facility, 27 additional beds, a new elevator and remodeled obstetrics unit.
Another addition, completed in 1961, included an intensive care unit and 30 additional patient beds in what was called 3-West.
In the mid 1960s Welch had guided the hospital out of debt and oversaw yet another construction project, the two-story East wing that was completed in 1966.
Prior to her retirement in 1967 Welch went to Chicago to receive her highest honor, a fellowship at the American College of Hospital Administrators.
When Welch arrived in Corvallis the hospital had 40 beds and 12 physicians when she left the hospital had 181 beds 60 physicians. Upon retirement Welch moved north to the Seattle area. She passed away in 1978 at the age of 78. Here obituary listed no survivors but encouraged contributions to be made to the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation.
Each year High school seniors, undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in, or accepted to, a program to pursue a career in a health or medically related field in a hospital setting are encouraged to apply for the Virginia Welch Scholarship. The Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Auxiliary has awarded more than $260,000 in those scholarship funds to students pursuing a career in health care.
Virginia Welch sits next to Lt. Col Jerry Ward during the dedication of the new hospital in February of 1976.
Watch for more articles about Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center as we continue to celebrate 75 years of service to the mid-Willamette Valley and central Oregon coast.