Medical Center Hospital celebrated 65 years of service last year. Opening December 5, 1949 as an 85-
bed community hospital, MCH met an important need for Odessa. Over the years, MCH has expanded and
added services and technology to meet the growing needs of the community. Today, MCH has grown into a
402-bed Level II Trauma Center with over 1,700 employees and 350 physicians.
A Hospital is Born
In 1948, there were three hospitals in Odessa. Dr. Elbert Thorton owned a six-bed hospital, Dr. Emmett Headlee
owned the Headlee Hospital, which is now the Ector County Library and Dr. J.K. Wood owned a 34-bed facility
called Wood Hospital.
Due to the need for more healthcare services, a group of citizens, spearheaded by Dr. Wood, met with the Ector
County Commissioners to propose a new hospital for Odessa. The commissioners recognized the need and
C.C. Gibson was soon hired as the hospital administrator.
After nearly two years of construction, the Ector County Hospital was dedicated on November 27, 1949. And
on December 5, 1949, the doors were opened for patients. This 85-bed community hospital, which cost
$838,946 to build, would later be called Medical Center Hospital.
The hospital served about 6,000 patients a year in the early years. As the number of patients grew, so did the
hospital. First a three-story addition was created, then a seven-story tower and then a second seven-story tower.
“It was only three floors when it started,” says Betty Johnson, an 84-year-old Auxiliary member. “It’s gone up
now and several new buildings have been added on.”
Creation of ECHD
MCH has a history of growth and quality, but it still faced some challenging times. During the ‘80s Medical Center
Hospital experienced financial difficulties. After some failed financial recovery attempts by private management
companies, Odessa rallied to rescue the hospital and voted to create the Ector County Hospital District in 1989.
“It was terrible trying to keep the hospital going,” remembers Dr. Life Barnard, who was Chief of Staff at the time.
“You almost had to beg for money for Kleenex. The creation of the board was a great asset to the hospital and
the community. It has made it possible for all the expansion.”
Mary Thompson, an Ector County Hospital District board member since its creation, agrees with Dr. Barnard.
She says the hospital district and sales tax has had a significant impact on MCH. “Had the hospital district not
been created and had the sales tax initiative not been passed, we would not be where we are today,” she says.
“It’s been instrumental in providing high quality care to our supportive community.”
Changes in Healthcare
Many physicians have chosen to build their lives and practices in Odessa. Over the years they have seen
the changes in healthcare firsthand. Dr. Life Barnard, who came to Odessa in 1969 to be a doctor and still
practices today, explains how the roles of doctors evolved. “Things have changed so much that you really
need specialists,” he explains. “Medicine has become more technical and more specialized and requires more
Another major healthcare change was the introduction of the computer. Before the computer doctors had to
rely on being able to read one another’s handwriting on paper charts. Dr. Barnard attests that computers have
changed the medical field. “The advantage of using the computer is there is less chance of errors being made
with more detailed records and electronic orders,” Dr. Barnard says. “Also putting the progress notes on the
computer has made it a lot easier to read other doctors’ notes than the old paper charts.” By always staying on
the cusp of new technology, MCH strives to provide the highest quality patient experience possible.
From a Hospital to a Health System
Over time, Medical Center Hospital has become more than a 402-bed facility by opening multiple clinics
throughout Odessa. These include the Family Health Clinic on Clements, the Clinics at Walmart in both Odessa
Walmart locations and the Center for Health & Wellness on Faudree and Highway 191. Because of MCH’s growth
outside the four walls of the hospital, Medical Center Health System (MCHS) was introduced
in October 2010.
At the same time that Medical Center Health System was introduced, the Center for Health
& Wellness opened its doors at East Highway 191 and Faudree Road. This center includes
Mission Fitness, Urgent Care, ProCare Internal Medicine, Laboratory, Diabetes Center
Since 2010, MCHS has continued to open clinics at various locations to make
healthcare more accessible. In 2014, MCHS opened the Center for Primary Care
– JBS Parkway and the Center for Primary Care – West University that include
Urgent Care clinics, pediatric and family medicine services. MCHS now operates
four Urgent Care clinics, two Clinics at Walmart, two Family Health Clinic locations,
the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
MCH employees support this growth and know these new clinics are a positive addition that impact more that
just their families. “It makes me really proud to see the way we are growing and reaching out to all areas of the
community,” says Mini Kikuchi, a MCH nurse of 40 years. “We have all these little towns that depend on us as
The future is bright for MCHS with continued expansion, renovation and progress. “The forecast shows even
more growth in the Permian Basin over the next decade and we plan to continue to meet the increased
healthcare needs in our community in the coming years,” says Bill Webster, CEO of Medical Center
Health System. Whenever you need us, wherever you are, Medical Center Health System
has your family covered. We’re your one source for health.