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Kern General Hospital
Taft Branch

Current view of old Fort Kern General Hospital Taft loaction
The portion of The Fort in Taft as it looks today where the Kern General Hospital Taft Unit was located.

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The Taft Newsletter

The Fort Hospital Historical Development Reviewed

Thursday, May 26, 1955 -- The Daily Midway Driller, By Edith Dane

(NOTE: Edith Dane was a early pioneer of Taft, having arrived in Taft about 1909, before Taft was incorporated.  She was an employee of the Taft Union High School and Taft Junior College District and could be found usually in the junior college library.  In her spare time she wrote a weekly column for the Taft Midway Driller called Kernland Tales.)

Now we come to the story of the West Side Unit of the Kern General Hospital, at "The Fort."  The Fort, constructed of local adobe bricks, was a WPA project during the depression.  Stanley Abel was supervisor to the West Side at the time.  The structure was a replica of Sutter's Fort at Sacramento.  Its first purpose was to house county offices, with one unit devoted to a clinic.

In 1940 A. W. Noon, assumed the office of supervisor from the Fourth Road District, the West Side.  In 1941, Mrs Eunice Skeen, and RN, started working in the clinic at The Fort.  At the time Dr. Kirby was medical administrator of Kern General with Mrs. Scott as supervisor.  The need for an emergency branch of Kern General on the West Side was becoming more and more obvious, and the possibilities of converting part of The Fort to such a purpose were considered.  After investigations and discussions, it was decided the plan was feasible and work to that end was started.

Emergency Unit Opened

On April 2, 1942, the West Side Emergency Unit of the Kern General Hospital was opened to the public.  It consisted of four rooms, with three beds in each, an office, and X-ray room, an emergency room, and kitchen where the food for the patients was prepared.  Soon Room 10, in the east wing, a large room used as a consultation room for various organizations, was made into a six-bed ward for men.  It now contains eight beds.

There was also a large room in the west wing, which had been used for a WPA sewing project.  It was converted into a ten-bed women's ward.

In 1944 the West Side Unit began accepting obstetrical cases.  Space was made for six mothers, a delivery room and a nursery.  Obstetrical cases were handled here until the disastrous earthquake of 1952, when acute need for shelter space for elderly patients from Kern General caused a change in arrangements.

More Room Needed

Twenty patients from Kern General were taken in by the West Side Unit.  It was able to do so by general shifting around and crowding together.  In rooms containing three beds, four were placed.  Those designed for six held eight, and those with eight, ten.  Two more rooms beyond the large Women's Ward in the west wing, were opened.  The hospital is still crowded, and there is need for further expansion, but the question of how to do it remains to be solved.

The Fort was not built to be a hospital, but to house offices and consultation rooms, opening on a central court.  It is an inconvenient plan for a hospital.  In all sorts of weather hospital attendants must use the outside corridors to get from one part of the hospital to the other, and linens, and other supplies, must also go outdoors.  However, it seemed the best solution to the West Side's need for a General Hospital Unit, and its inconvenience are put up cheerfully for the most part.

The patients were very good during the experience of the earthquakes.  Dr. Lloyd Tarr, who was the physician in charge of the hospital at the time, was in the wards almost before the building stopped rocking, going from bed to bed, reassuring the patients.  No great damage was done to any of The Fort except the auditorium, which was re-built.  The greatest damage to the hospital occurred in the clinic where all of the medicines fell off the shelves.  The bottles were broken and the floor covered with liquids in all colors of the rainbow.

Dr. Lloyd Tarr served the hospital well and faithfully for ten years.  He was greatly missed when he resigned to take up private practice.  A period followed when different doctors were sent over from Kern General in rapid succession, a method not to conducive to the general happiness of those concerned.  At present Dr. Arthur Griffin of Taft is the physician in charge, working part-time at The Fort and having a private practice beside.

Mrs. Eunice Skeen, worked in the clinic before the hospital was established.  When plans were made for the West Side Unit Dr. Kirby, A. W. Noon, and Mrs. Scott asked her to take charge of it.  She told them she would rather continue in the clinic, but they insisted that she should try it for a month.  She has been in charge ever since.  Still liking her old job best, she helped in the clinic on busy days.  When Delpha Williams was transferred to the Stonybrook Sanitarium, Mrs. Skeen took that place again, and now manages from the clinic.  She still visits each patient at least twice a week, and oftener if they are not doing well.

The Fort Hospital has a staff of 22, with nurses, aides, maids, janitors, cooks and helpers.  There are five in the kitchen.