Sentinel-Echo.com

Opinion

July 11, 2014

The tales of Dr. Robert E. Pennington

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —

When Dr. H. V. Pennington began to practice medicine in Laurel County times were hard and medical methods were primitive, compared to today.  His son, Dr. Robert E. Pennington, in the article from which I quoted last week, wrote:

“Keeping the hospital doors open was a constant source of concern for him because of financial difficulties.  There was no governmental subsidization or either hospital or doctor bills by local, state or federal governments.  There was no Medicare or Medicaid and medical insurance was unheard of at the time.  To supply food and labor, bartering was done.  A large garden was planted behind the hospital, cows were pastured about the hospital grounds, and chickens were raised to supply eggs and meat.  Local personnel were trained by the hospital for many of the positions necessary.”

“Despite the numerous obstacles and crises no one was turned away because of lack of funds.  Patients from all the surrounding counties and others who lived out of state returned home for medical attention.  All were admitted and cared for as their illnesses required.  On occasion, members of the accompanying family were housed by area residents.  In some instances clothing had to be obtained for the discharged patients who had nothing to wear home.”

“In addition to operating in his local hospital, Dr. H. V. Pennington not infrequently traveled to Manchester to operate in a small hospital there.  At times weather and road conditions necessitated his making these trips by horseback.  At other times he traveled by car or buggy. On other occasions he drove to Barbourville, rode the early morning train to Manchester, and returned on the same train late in the afternoon.”

“During the earlier years, there being no inpatient medical facilities available, he performed operations in the home, using doors placed on “saw-horses” or other flat surfaces as a substitute for operating tables. An early issue of the Sentinel Echo (would then have been the Mountain Echo) reported of his successfully operating on a local man in the Jackson Hotel which stood on the present site of First Baptist Church (now the site of First Financial Center).  The man had been shot in the abdomen.  The instruments were sterilized by boiling in a wash kettle in the back of the hotel.  In the operation he was assisted by Drs. J. B. Mason, P. E. Bryant and Alex Foster.  One of the guest rooms was used as an operating room.”

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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