Mercy Health Love County - Content

Historical Timeline


Love County citizens approve $350,000 bond issue for hospital construction under terms of the federal Hill-Burton Act.


On November 15, the heirs of Frank A. and Lillie Bell Shellenberger Family donate a 10-acre tract to locate the general hospital.


Hospital construction begins on November 16.


Love County Health Center opens January 30 with 20 hospital beds, 10 nursing home beds, and an emergency room. A total of 14 area physicians receive staff privileges, including Dr. Vergil Smith, who had established a medical clinic on Main Street 10 years earlier. Dr. M.D. Looney is named staff president emeritus. Dr. Smith is credited with admitting the first patient, a Ringling woman, six hours before Oklahoma Governor Dewey Bartlett gives the dedication speech to officially open the hospital.

On April 13, the first baby is born at the hospital. After a few years, the hospital closes both its operating room and nursery due to the difficulty of obtaining anesthesiologists’ services. Henceforth, it would concentrate on providing urgent care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation.


Pink Ladies Auxiliary organizes under Kathryn Frazier, president. In July, Dr. J.T. O’Connor joins Dr. Smith’s medical clinic and becomes affiliated with the hospital.


Love County brothers and oil/cattle industry investors, Claude and Bill Brannan and their wives establish the Brannan Family Trust to benefit the hospital. Under terms of the Trust, the Board of County Commissioners establishes the Love County Health Center Foundation, whose community members will decide how annual earnings from the Trust will be spent. Over the years, the Trust has paid out earnings of more than $1 million to purchase equipment, provide medical education, and support operations of the hospital.


Throughout the decade, medical technology advanced in high-cost leaps. Large companies begin to bridle at fee-for-service medicine and the disproportionate share of medical costs borne by employee benefit plans. Medical cost containment measurements are introduced. Two dozen small town hospitals in Oklahoma close.

The McGehee and Wilkins trusts are established to benefit the hospital.


Dr. Stephen Hutchins moves to Marietta and opens a private clinic and becomes affiliated with the hospital.


Doctors Smith, O’Connor and Hutchins, in a sacrificial effort to keep the community’s hospital open, close their private clinics and join the hospital as salaried staff members. A wing of the hospital is converted to clinic use, with revenues accruing to the institution rather than the physicians. Love County voters do their part by approving a one-cent sales tax. This is the first tax asked of citizens since the initial bond was voted in 1966.


Hospital construction bond is retired and, with it, the obligation to set aside funds for charitable care. Hospital staff requests such funds continue to be allotted anyway. The Board of Control concurs.


Love County Emergency Services asks hospital to take over its operations.


Twice, the Board of Control seeks voters’ approval of a temporary 5-mill property tax to raise $500,000 for construction of a separate clinic building. Both times, the measure receives more than 50% of the vote but less than the necessary 60% super-majority.

The financial squeeze on hospitals everywhere is such that institutions team up to obtain central purchasing of equipment and other cost savings. Love County forms such a buying consortium through the Integris network, including Memorial Hospital in Ardmore.

It achieves Rural Health Center status.


Three years after taking over management of a near-insolvent Love County EMS, emergency care has become an area of excellence. Ambulance licensure has progressed from basic to paramedic life support. Crews are now capable of managing most medical emergencies – an important capability in a far-flung county covering 500 square miles. The hospital sponsors a volunteer Emergency Medical Responder (formerly First Responder) network, comprised of laypersons, firefighters, and law enforcement personnel who can provide emergency care prior to the arrival of an ambulance. EMS debts have been cleared, and the first of three new or almost-new ambulances is acquired.


Memorial Hospital in Ardmore, having been purchased in 1996 by the Mercy Health System of St. Louis, proposes to lease the Love County hospital. The Board of Control concurs and Love County voters agree to cancel the one-cent sales tax so the lease of the public facility can occur. Control passes to Mercy Memorial and the facility takes a new name, Mercy Health/Love County.

Over the next 18 months, Mercy Memorial pours $2 million into the health center – paying off the hospital’s debts, upgrading the facility inside and out, and constructing a new clinic, all at no cost to Love County.


The new 6,000 square foot medical office building opens. But financial turmoil in the hospital industry continues. Mercy Health System withdraws from the lease agreement to concentrate on its larger facilities. Love County Commissioners reactivate the hospital Board of Control and successfully win from voters a renewal of the one-cent sales tax to support hospital operations. The Board of Control re-establishes a management agreement with Mercy Memorial and retains the name, Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic. Ownership of the hospital and clinic remain with Love County.


Board of Control achieves “critical access” status for hospital, allowing cost-based reimbursement from Medicare. This helps with the bottom line and permits improvements in the quality of care.


Hospital/clinic begins offering rehabilitative services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Employees open a food pantry to feed the hungry and food-insecure of Love County.


A Love County health-needs assessment is conducted in cooperation with the Oklahoma Office of Rural Health. Local citizens evaluate the substantial economic impact of the health care sector of Love County’s economy and are polled by telephone on health needs for the community.


Dr. Larry D. Powell moves to Love County and joins the hospital/clinic, answering the need for an additional doctor expressed during the citizens’ assessment in 2002.


Hospital acquires a computerized, color-flow Doppler ultrasound machine. It increases the capacity for studying blood vessels and organs for possible disease. In February, county voters overwhelming approve renewal of the penny sales tax, for 10 years, that supports hospital operations.


Hospital opens a one-room chapel off the main lobby.

In May, hospital organizes a Medicare Part D coalition to help senior citizens become informed about the new prescription drug program from Medicare. The coalition now includes the hospital, Love County Health Department, the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Big 5 Community Services, and Love County’s only drug store, Marietta Pharmacy. The coalition focuses first on enrolling low-income seniors for the “extra help” subsidy of Medicare Part D that will pay up to 95% of prescription costs when Medicare Part D gets underway in 2006. Then, each fall, during Medicare Part D open enrollment, the coalition offers to take any Medicare participant in the county through the “plan finder” tool on the website so they can select the best prescription drug plan for their prescriptions.


A contractual arrangement with the Chickasaw Nation results in a second EMS ambulance station in Thackerville at the new WinStar Casinos. This arrangement enhances service in the southern end of the county and on I-35, and results in another new ambulance. The hospital will soon contract for first aid services inside the Casino, adding to EMS employment. The hospital contract expands to include first aid services inside Riverwind Casino in Norman, when that center opens in 2007.

Under sponsorship of Sister Carolyn Stoutz of Mercy Memorial in Ardmore, and in cooperation with the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma, the hospital acquires a $100,000 Catherine’s Legacy grant to open a victim advocate office in Marietta for the benefit of battered women and their children. It is the first service in Love County devoted to preventing and treating domestic violence and sexual assault. An advisory group of law enforcement, prosecutor, and hospital staff works closely with the new office.


Hospital acquires a CT scanner (computerized tomography). It exceeds the capabilities of conventional x-ray exams for illuminating diseased organs and fractured bones.

Hospital acquires an automated drug dispensing system for patients admitted to the hospital or treated in the emergency room.  This adds to patient safety (reducing medication errors) and the tracking and inventory of drugs.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Training Center is added to the ambulance bay. The room seats 25-30 and is equipped with audiovisual media and Internet access. In addition to hospital/clinic staff training, the center will accommodate classroom and demonstration courses for the county’s emergency response organizations, including medics, volunteer emergency medical responders (formerly first responders), search and rescue, and volunteer fire fighters. The first paramedic training course is offered.


Hospital acquires a bone density scanner. It increases the ability to screen patients for osteoporosis affecting vertebrae and hip joints.

The Rural Health Clinic built by Mercy Memorial in 1997 and leased to Love County is purchased by Love County. Love County Commissioners approve a $275,000 expenditure from accrued hospital funding to retire debt on the clinic. Both hospital and clinic are now owned by the people of Love County.

The hospital/EMS contract with WinStar Casinos is extended once again after a new fire station/ambulance bay opens on casino grounds in the fall of 2008. Responsibilities include creation of a new emergency service specialist-fire brigade position. Medics are cross-trained to provide fire prevention, protection, and rescue.

Love County EMS and Mercy Health/Love County become first EMS in Oklahoma to offer Paramedic and Basic EMT education to the public. Utilitizing two-way teleconferencing set up by the hospital's training center in Marietta and at station two at WinStar Casino, the institutions contract with technology centers for paramedic and basic EMT instructors. The first paramedic class gets underway in February to include 18 months of classroom instruction and 400 hours of skills training, both coordinated by the hospital/EMS trainer.

Hospital launches a website with complete information about hospital, clinic, emergency room, doctor, radiology, laboratory, and rehabilitation services. The site can be found at or


First paramedics graduate from the EMS/hospital training center.

Dr. O'Connor is named Physician of the Year by the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants.

Radiography department goes filmless. X-ray equipment has dispensed with film and converted to digital imaging. Instead of taking exposed film into a darkroom for time-consuming development , the imaging plate is run through a laser scanner that reads and digitizes the image. The images can be sent via computer to the doctor's office.  

Picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) is acquired to convert old x-ray films into digital images.

Love County voters approve telephone service fees to upgrade the 911 answering system. About 1,000 votes are cast, 90% of them in favor of a 15% monthly service fee on landlines and a $.50 monthly service fee on wireless phones. Enhanced 911 will take three years for the County Commissioners to implement. Among the benefits: instant recognition of where callers are located, shortening response time; naming all roads; and addressing of all homes and businesses. Rural address and highway contract mail will go away, to be replaced  with locatable house number and street/road name mail service throughout the county. For the first time, rural residents will qualify for package delivery, such as Fedex or UPS, to their homes. 


Outpatient therapy leaves ‘A’ Wing and settles into an expansive new building a few feet east in August. The 3,500 square foot Therapy Building  houses a gym, a lift-equipped whirlpool, and office/treatment rooms for physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory rehabilitation.An enclosed entryway connects the Therapy Building to ‘B’ Wing of the hospital. Doors are automated for wheelchair access. A large conference room seats 50 for hospital-sponsored health seminars and other events. Refrigerator, sink, heating tables and other amenities permit food service.


In August, the hospital/clinic welcomes Paul Nioce, M.D.

The clinic building is expanded to add eight more treatment rooms and additional offices. Architectural improvements give a new look inside and outside the hospital's front entrancel. Inside, the former cafeteria is converted to offices. The Hospital Auxiliary gift shop is enlarged and enclosed on three sides by floor-to-ceiling glass. Glass enclosed walkways lead into the hospital and the clinic and extend out to the curb. Three small gardens greet visitors as they stroll along the walkways. The overall theme is of a dry creek bed, with bedding of crushed granite and blue stones, bordered by drought-resistant fountain grass, maiden grass, holly, hosta, crepe myrtle, Japanese maple, Blue Atlas cedar trees, and more. An urn-fountain adds a peaceful element of running water.


January 30, 2012 was the 40th anniversary of Love County Health Center!  In Marietta are EMS Station 1, a Training Center, a Hospital, Clinic, Therapy Building and Food Pantry. In Thackerville, at WinStar Casino, is EMS Station 2. In the year ended June 30, 2011, the Hospital served 435 inpatients and 5,170 outpatients. The Emergency Room served 5,307 patients. Love County EMS responded to 1,591 ambulance calls. The Clinic served 14,000 patient visit. The Food Pantry dispensed 14,300 food baskets. On staff are 11 physicians and primary care providers, and 122 other coworkers. 

In December, Dr. J.T.  O'Connor , Jr. completed 40 years as a physician in Marietta and retired from practice.


Dr. Vergil Smith begins his 50th year of practice in Marietta. He is credited with admitting the first patient to the hospital on opening day, Jan. 30, 1972. Dr. Smith continues to see patients in the hospital clinic.

On February 1, the hospital went 100% smoke and tobacco-free anywhere on hospital, clinic, or ambulance station property.

In July, Dr. Larry D. Powell retired after 10 years of service in the hospital and clinic. He was replaced by John W. Hester, D.O. The hospital is awarded a $160,000 trails grant from the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department to construct walking trails on land acquired for that purpose north of the hospital.

On October 8, voters overwhelming approved a 10-year renewal of the penny sales tax that supports Love County Health Center operations. The election results showed 540 Yes versus 28 No votes, a 95% victory margin.

On December 9, the community entered a period of mourning after learning of the death of Dr. Smith.  


On January 6, Mercy Love County Adult Day Center & Family Services opened at 200 Wanda St. The center provides a day out for adults (mostly seniors) with dementia or physical challenges. It is staffed by a hospital RN, CNAs, Activities Director, and Licensed Professional Counselor. For the whole community, the LPC provides individual and family counseling. 

The clinic welcomed two new practitioners: Terry Jones, M.D., and Rhonda Mose, FNP.

Agencies moved into the new Social Services Building and ground was broken on Legacy Park north of the hospital.


March 1, 2015 marks Richard Barker's 25th anniversary as administrator and CEO. Barker is the longest-serving hospital administrator in Oklahoma. 

On June 1, the hospital and clinic welcome Dr. Margaret Western


March 1, 2016, a new wing opens in the emergency room, tripling the space available for treatment, waiting room, and outpatient laboratory services. 

March 22, 2016, Love County Legacy Park opened officially on hospital grounds. The park is managed by the hospital. A grand opening event for the 1/2 mile walking, biking, rollerskating, wheelchair recreational trail brought 600 first-day visitors to the new park. In June the adjoining Growers Market opened for business. 

In August 2016, the hospital and clinic welcomes Dr. Joe Witten.


In June 2018, the hospital acquires a 16-slice CT scanner.


In March 2020, the clinic welcomes Nikki Barker, APRN-FNP, Family Nurse Practitioner.


Emergency Room PA Maria Maynard is named "Rural PA of the Year" by the Oklahoma Academy of Physician Assistants


On January 30, the Love County Health Center celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Mercy Health Love County EMS is named top advanced life support ambulance by the Oklahoma EMT Association. Tad Hall, PA-C, was recognized as Administrator of the Year. Jeff McGuire, PA-C, was instructor of the year.


On Valentine's Day, Februrary 14, the voters showed their love for the hospital by renewing a one-cent sales tax for equipping and maintaining the Love County Health Center. The results were 335 Yes votes and 23 No votes.