Throughout the past century, Wyoming Medical Center has grown from a small hospital providing medical care to the people of Natrona County to a sophisticated medical center serving people from all areas of Wyoming.
On Nov. 1, 1911, the Casper branch of Wyoming General Hospital opened its doors with just 35 beds. The square, two-story building, costing $22,500, stood between the eastern edge of Casper and a treeless prairie. Martha Converse Kimball was the first superintendent.
More than 10 years later, the state allowed Natrona County to buy the hospital for $1. County commissioners took possession of the building, grounds, equipment and supplies on Jan. 1, 1922, and renamed the facility Memorial Hospital of Natrona County. A period of expansion soon followed, including the addition of a west wing with 100 beds.
A Growing Institution
After World War II, a population influx related to local oil production filled the hospital to capacity. A hospital designed for 124 patients bulged with 145 to 165 patients at any given time. Voters approved a $1 million bond issue to construct the north section of the building in 1956. A subsequent $1.6 million bond issue allowed for demolition of the last remaining section of the original building and the 1967 erection of the six-story building central to the facility today.
Emergency services were expanded in the 1970s, and the Natrona County Memorial Hospital Foundation was established to raise additional money for special hospital projects.
Wyoming Medical Center
In 1986, a major corporate restructuring resulted in the creation of Wyoming Medical Center, a private, not-for-profit charitable corporation that leases the county-owned facilities. A board of trustees composed of Natrona County citizens oversees the county’s facilities. Free of many of the restrictions that often stem from county operation, practicing physicians were then able to assume board positions, and WMC could undertake partnerships to further its mission.
The December 1989 opening of the $5 million Central Services Building ushered in a decade of major construction projects, including the Cancer Treatment Center, Casper Surgical Center, and the south link connecting the parking structure and the main hospital. In 1997, crews razed the outdated east wing, making way for a contemporary annex at a cost of $45 million. Completed in 2001, this branch of the hospital houses a Trauma Center, Intensive Care Unit and surgical suites.
In 2014, Wyoming Medical Center opened the McMurry West Tower with a new front door and true hospital lobby. The project added new public space for patients and visitors including an Interfaith Chapel, gift shop, eatery, coffee shop and public waiting areas. It also added state-of-the-art patient rooms including the Jerry Behrens M.D..Orthopedic, Spine and General Surgery Center and the Ruth R. Ellbogen Family, Mother and Baby Center.
A new era
In October 2020, WMC partnered with Banner Health to become the healthcare system’s flagship hospital for the state of Wyoming. Banner Health, headquartered in Arizona, is one of the largest non-profit healthcare systems in the country. It owns and operates 29 acute-care hospitals, Banner Health Network, Banner – University Medicine, academic and employed physician groups, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other. Banner Health is in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.
As Banner’s regional referral center, WMC is an expansion of Banner’s existing Wyoming footprint that includes three rural hospitals in the state – Platte County Memorial Hospital in Wheatland, Community Hospital in Torrington and Washakie Medical Center in Worland.