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History of the Hazen Hospital: Celebrating 75 Years

In the fall of 1918, Hazen got an inadvertent and temporary hospital when its new school building was equipped with 24 beds and a staff of five Bismarck nurses to cope with the Spanish influenza epidemic. The facility closed shortly after. There was not even a temporary hospital when a sleeping sick ness (encephalitis) epidemic hit the community in the spring of 1923.

Years later, the first real hospital began in 1941 as a private undertaking by a Beulah woman. It was located on the second floor of an original Main Street building, on the south side of the block between Central Ave and 1st Ave.

In 1943, people in and around the Hazen area became aware that the community was in need of a modern hospital. A group of community leaders drew up articles for the nonprofit corporation and began fundraising shortly after. In 1945 an agreement was entered with Lutheran Hospital and Homes Society for operation of the proposed hospital. In the fall of 1946, construction got under way.

The $150,000 hospital was dedicated in January 1948, with approximately 650 people attending the service at English Lutheran Church. Despite post-war scarcities, donations totaled $118,000. No government aid was requested for this project. The hospital, which was classified as a 30-bed facility, but only 23 beds were installed, became operational February 16, 1948. Six patients were admitted in the first three days and a baby was born on February I7.

By the late 1960s, it was apparent that either major remodeling or a new facility was needed. A drive for a $1 million facility was launched in 1969 with construction starting that same year. The Hazen Hospital Association also took over operation of the hospital from the Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society in 1969. With local donations and Hill-Burton federal funds, a 39-bed, 8-bassinet hospital was built on the east edge of Hazen. It was dedicated in June 1970, and officially opened its doors in August of the same year. Once the new facility was opened, the original hospital on Main Street became the Pioneer Park Retirement Home.

After years of planning, in 1982 the board of directors decided to proceed with the construction of a $1.2 million expansion and renovation of the hospital. The name of the hospital was changed to Sakakawea Medical Center in 1988.

In 1991 the SMC Foundation was formed. At the time, its goals were three-fold: an interior renovation project; recruitment and continuing education dollars for physicians; and replace and update hospital equipment.

In 1997, the residents of the Pioneer Park Retirement Home were moved into the newly built Senior Suites facility.

After conducting a Community Health Needs Assessment in 2012, local health leaders concluded that the area was in need of additional technology, services, and accessibility the current facility could not provide. In 2015, construction began on a $30.5 million replacement hospital to address these needs. The new hospital would be located directly south of the previous facility. In April 2017, the retiring facility was closed and the new one opened. The new medical center houses a health clinic, expanded ER and surgical area, handicap-accessible patient rooms, centralized registration area and nurse’s station, and other needed changes and technology updates.