In 1844, before California was a state, the first California public hospital was established on the outskirts of Monterey. At this time, the practice of isolation of contagious diseases gave rise to “pest houses” staffed by two nurses and a burial squad. These “houses” gave rise to the first California public hospital under contract to the Mexican government. In 1850, the Board of Supervisors’ notes record comments that the County needed to provide for the indigent and sick.
In 1856, Dr. James Ord was appointed County physician and the sick were cared for by County-appointed physicians in each township. In 1873, the County purchased 100 acres of land for a farm where the sick were cared for at the rate of $0.70 a day. The Board abandoned the farm a year later and contracted with Dr. S.M. Archer to provide for patients at his private hospital in Santa Rita.
In July, 1885, a group of prominent Salinas citizens presented the Board of Supervisors with a petition asking that the County establish a county hospital. In September, the Board acquired a 62.6 acre parcel from Eugene Sherwood at a cost of $75.00 an acre at Natividad and Laurel Roads in Salinas, the current site of Natividad Medical Center (NMC).
In January, 1886, the Board of Supervisors officially entered the hospital business. A 69-bed hospital was completed at a cost of $4,000.00. The Supervisors inspected the building on January 8, 1886 and the first patients were admitted to NMC. The first hospital building was replaced in 1928 by Spanish style architecture. Additional construction over the years began with tubercular isolation units and a long-term care unit between 1928 and 1948. In 1958, a 3-story, 113-bed addition was completed. NMC’s Mental Health Unit, the only locked unit in Monterey County, was upgraded in 1987, and a 12-bed Level II Nursery addition was dedicated in April 1993.
Today’s main hospital opened in 1998, licensed for 163 beds. The Extended Care Unit, which closed in 2003, was replaced by the Sam Karas Acute Rehabilitation Center now entering its fifth year of operation. Our Community Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened in 2005 and currently is licensed for 15 beds. As it stands now, Natividad Medical Center is licensed for 172 beds and employs approximately 1,000 permanent and temporary/per-diem employees providing care to the community.
Natividad provides more than 135,000 patients with care and treatment each year, and handles more that 47,000 emergency visits annually. There are more important services offered that makes Natividad a valuable asset in Monterey County, including a wide range of inpatient and outpatient health care services.