County Hospital and Nursing Home administrator to retire

Published 1:42 pm Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dorothy “Dot” Bilbo has made the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home a career — she started working at the facility in 1958 at age 20 after graduating from Pearl River Junior College in 1957.

Fifty-two years later — with only a brief two year pause — she has decided it is time to retire from the place that has become a second home and its staff and residents a second family.

“The people here, it seems that we all are together; it’s not only a working relationship, we have a caring relationship — like a large family,” Bilbo said.

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From 1958 until 1993 she worked continually at the hospital, first as bookkeeper, then in 1963 as office manager and bookkeeper and finally as administrator in 1985. Bilbo said those early years were a lot different in medical administration and practices from what people see today.

As she recalls,  in the late ’50s, there were only two people in the office of the hospital, at that time located behind the Pearl River County Courthouse, herself and the office manager. With completion In the fall of 1959 of the current facility on Mississippi Highway 11 North, the old hospital building was closed. That building is now part of the county administrative complex where county supervisors hold their meetings.

When the hospital was leased to an outside medical group in 1993, Bilbo remained to assist in the hospital and nursing home’s administration for about five months, she said, before returning to private life.

 In February of 1995, when the facility was returned to local control, she returned temporarily as administrator until the position could be filled. After a time, “temporarily” turned into 15 years.

Bilbo has seen many changes in the medical community in her time here, both in personnel and in the facilities.

“I’ve worked with and come in contact with many people over the years that I’ll always greatly admire,” she said.

When asked about individuals that had an impact on her career and the operation of the hospital and nursing home, Bilbo deferred naming anyone for fear of leaving someone out.

“There’s just so many people … there’s just been a lot of people that’s impressed me. I’ve just had so many that cared about this hospital.”

She humbly refuses to place any importance to her years of service, stressing instead the years of dedication by the many doctors, nurses, other administrators, staff and other employees who have worked at the facility.

“It takes a whole team because the administrator is only as good as the staff, doctors and nurses, employees and the hospital’s administrative board,” Bilbo said.

Her dedication did not go unnoticed in the community. She was recognized for her years of service by being selected as Poplarville’s Citizen of the Year in 2005.

Bilbo says there have been several doctors over the years that had been very faithful to the hospital. Now, Bilbo says the hospital is fortunate in the physicians it has through the Hattiesburg Clinic and the Pearl River Family Clinic.

She says there have been many physical changes as the hospital has grown through the years, much of that because of advances in technology and the increase in the need for specialized training.

“We used to do surgery here; most anybody in Poplarville would come here and have the surgery that we did — gall bladder I guess would be the most extensive (at the time).”

“Times have changed … I don’t think it would be feasible for us to have surgery … or deliver babies, although we had a lot of success in those days. Times are different.”

In 1970, only 10 years after the move to the new hospital, a 40-bed nursing home addition was completed and in 1987 another 20 beds were added, allowing the nursing home portion to become self-supporting. Prior to that Bilbo said the nursing home portion was supported by the hospital.

She said the final addition to the nursing home — a 60-bed unit — was completed in 2003 and that had been a major goal of hers, the hospital’s board and the county supervisors.

Now the facility has approximately 110 nursing home residents and it can accommodate 126, she said.

“Everybody (the staff) knows the residents; the residents love them and they love the residents.

In part, because of that love and the caring of the hospital’s “family,” the facility was able to weather one of its greatest challenges, Hurricane Katrina, Bilbo said.

After the storm’s eye passed over Poplarville and winds subsided, the hospital staff assessed the situation and continued the business of caring for its residents and their needs, Bilbo said. She downplayed her role in those days, even while admitting “There were days that I didn’t go home; that I stayed here day and night.”

She said the hospital and nursing home were so blessed during Katrina with the dedication of the staff and the community. Staff members were camping out in the halls so they could continue to work and Bilbo said she told them bring their families to the hospital if they wanted to.

People in the community brought in cooked food for the nurses and others during that stressful time, she said. The staff would tend to the residents in so many little ways, checking on them during the night with anything that could make them more comfortable, such as washing their faces and hands with cold washcloths.

“It was such a closeness between everybody,” Bilbo said. “God took care of everybody … I would go down the halls and nobody was afraid.

Now with retirement in her near future Bilbo plans to catch up on some things that have been dear to her throughout the years. Her family has always been close to her heart and she plans a lot of time with them, she said.

She and her husband Monroe have been married 53 years and raised two daughters, Carol Rains and Hilda Harwell. Both are married and each has two children. The family are members of the Poplarville First Baptist Church.

Bilbo also plans to be a volunteer with the hospital and nursing home auxiliary.

Looking back through those 52 years, Bilbo has many good memories, even though it has not been without its share of stress.

“I’ve enjoyed my job … and I would do it all over again. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather work.”