Remembering the hospital's past and preparing for its future

photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Carson-Tahoe Hospital board member Jo Saulisberry is proud of the 352,000-square-foot medical center that opened Saturday. She is now turning her focus on helping get the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center built.

photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Carson-Tahoe Hospital board member Jo Saulisberry is proud of the 352,000-square-foot medical center that opened Saturday. She is now turning her focus on helping get the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center built.

Jo Saulisberry has been a part of the history of Carson-Tahoe Hospital for 11 years. She keeps a record of it in a manilla folder. One day all that information - written on scrap pieces of paper, recorded on cassette tapes and contained in newsletters - will be in the next volume of the hospital's history.

Saulisberry was one of the original five board members who voted in 2001 to turn the city hospital into a private entity. She is the only woman who sits on the board now. Her goal is to write a history of the hospital, from the disastrous fire in August 1968 to the Saturday opening of the $118 million Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center on the 85-acre campus in north Carson City.

"I plan to continue the history where we left off. Willa Oldham's book on the history of Carson-Tahoe Hospital goes into the 1980s. I would like to continue it. Somebody needs to keep a history."

Saulisberry is full of facts about the hospital, something many people wouldn't think of recording. In August 1968 the roof of the "old, old" hospital on Fleischmann Way ignited when sparks flew up from a controlled burn started by the construction workers, she said.

At that time the new hospital, which had its entrance on Mountain Street, was under construction. She said patients were transported elsewhere and construction was rushed to get it done ahead of time. Patients moved back to the Carson City hospital in November 1968.

In 1979 the hospital's entrance was moved around to Fleischmann Way when the north wing was built. This renovation completed the hospital that Carson City residents are familiar with today.

That was the same year her son, Tracy, died after he was electrocuted by power lines that snagged on the branches of the tree he was climbing. He was one of the first patients to be moved into the new Intensive Care Unit.

It took her several years before she could look at the hospital without thinking about her 17-year-old son's tragic death.

"For three weeks I sat by his side day and night," she said. "At that time, there wasn't really a chapel or any place to go near him."

Tracy's heart stopped after he was in a coma for three weeks. Back then, the ICU rooms held four patients. Although the staff was nice, there wasn't a lot of space for the family. Often they had to gather outside his room. At that time it was even more crowded because the hospital was constructing a new section.

"We need the rooms for family counseling. All the patient rooms at the new hospital are private. And they create a place for the family to stay in the room. It's conducive to family care as well as patient care."

With 144 private patient rooms, the 352,000-square-foot medical center adds nearly 60 percent more acute-care capacity than the old hospital. The patient rooms are spacious, including wide windows, a large bathroom, a guest bed and Internet capabilities.

"We didn't know what to do with the family before, now we know we have to treat the family."

The 77-year-old former third-grade school teacher wants to put all of her energy into getting the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center built. The Carson Tahoe Foundation raised $4 million for the cancer center during its last campaign. Fundraisers still have $9-$12 million more to raise.

A photo of her three children, Tracy was the youngest, sits atop the mantle in her Dayton living room. For many years she could look at her family pictures and be grateful that cancer has never touched her family. Until this year.

Her 28-year-old granddaughter is being treated at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for melanoma that has spread to her brain.

"I always said that I'll do this because of my friends who've died of cancer. Now you never know. One day they are fine and the next day ...."

Saulisberry said she likes living in a smaller city because citizens have the opportunity to be involved in government and civic groups. She's been on the parks and rec board and the historical commission before it was abolished. A friend recommended that she run for the hospital board.

Everything Saulisberry has wanted to see happen at her community hospital has been realized at the Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare Medical Campus.

"It's a great feeling. You fell as if you've accomplished something and done something worthwhile."

-- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.

Why did the hospital decide to become a private entity?

The hospital board of trustees determined in late 2000 that remodeling the hospital would cost about the same amount as building a new hospital. To keep up with health-care changes, the board decided to convert to a private, not-for-profit, self-governing entity. This move transferred governing authority from the elected board to a private appointed board. Meetings could be held in private. Bonding issues would not be limited by Carson City.

Why didn't the hospital sell out to another health-care organization?

Carson-Tahoe had several offers, including Sutter Health, Tenant and Washoe Medical Center, but the board wanted the retain control of the hospital. It also wanted to keep the profit in the community. The hospital was desirable to buyers because it is profitable. Saulisberry said the profit was always put back into the hospital.

How did going private change the hospital board?

Membership on the hospital board of trustees was increased from five elected members to 13 appointed members. Physicians could be members on the board. Before they would have had to live in the district and run for the office.

Board of Hospital Trustees:

Caleb Mills

Jo Saulisberry

Dr. Anthony Field

Basil Chryssos

Pete Livermore

Ed Epperson

Jonathan Miller

Rex Baggett

Jeffrey Upton

Clifton Maclin Jr.

Bruce Park

James Gibson

Don Hataway


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