Is UMC the Oldest Hospital in Las Vegas?

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

Yes, and more than that, it’s the oldest in Southern Nevada. Opened in July 1931 as the 20-bed Clark County Indigent Hospital, it was intended to assist with treating physically injured and heat-stressed workers from Hoover Dam, as well as many others who arrived in Boulder City but were not hired to build the dam (hence, the indigent designation). Four months later, in November 1931, Boulder City Hospital opened to help as well.

After dam construction was completed, the Boulder City facility closed for eight years, reopening in 1943. Though it never closed, Clark County Indigent Hospital went through a post-dam transition as well. In 1938, discussions began to update the facility’s mission and organization to serve the general population, and in 1940 it became Clark County General Hospital. Facing increasing demands from the fast-growing community, the hospital in 1943 was turned over to the federal government, which promptly spent $450,000 on new buildings and equipment.

At the end of World War II, Clark County repurchased the hospital, and in the 1950s changed the name to one still referred to by crusty old-timers: Southern Nevada Memorial. In 1978, the facility became a teaching hospital, and in 1986, its name was changed to reflect that, becoming University Medical Center.

The hospital has long been an integral part of the community (as evidenced by such things as the Lions Club Blind Center and the Mesquite Club Garden). And it has seen its fair share of famous (and infamous) patients, including Kenny Guinn, Roy Horn and Tupac Shakur. It’s also home to the only Level I Trauma Center in Southern Nevada, explaining why the Flight for Life helicopter service has its helipad there.

Happy 150th!

It’s been a little more than three years since I began fielding your questions for this publication. That amounts to exactly 150 columns, or about 57,000 words—the rough equivalent of three movie scripts, two small books or one Oscar acceptance speech. It couldn’t have been done without reader input, so please know that I appreciate your questions, your corrections and criticisms, as well as your willingness to fill in the story gaps of our young city, whose modern history often exists only within our heads. Thank you, and keep it coming!

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