Sixty years ago, when residents of the Tri-Valley, in the East Bay, had a health crisis or needed a medical specialist, they had no choice but to travel 20 miles to Hayward or 30 miles to Oakland.
That changed in 1961, after residents of the then-patchwork of small townships launched a campaign to raise money — sometimes $1 at a time — and leaders secured grants to build what would become Valley Memorial Hospital. Over the years, the facility has kept pace with the growing Tri-Valley region, offering comprehensive medical care and serving as a training ground for the next generation of clinicians.
In 2015, ValleyCare expanded its care and medical education options by joining Stanford Medicine to become Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare.
“Historically, ValleyCare has always been a traditional, community-based health care system,” said Richard Shumway, the organization’s president and CEO. “And for 60 years, ValleyCare has done that really, really well. But joining the Stanford family has allowed us to bring really high-end, complex programs — usually only available at academic medical centers — directly into the community.”
Founded by and for the Tri-Valley community
In the late 1950s, the Tri-Valley region — which comprises the Amador, San Ramon and Livermore valleys — was made of up small towns surrounded by farmland and ranches. The area’s only hospital was a small, 18-bed facility in Livermore that wasn’t equipped to provide critical or emergency care or treat complex illnesses.
For the region to thrive, community leaders realized they needed a bigger hospital. Plans moved forward in earnest after the Kaiser Paving Co. donated a piece of land in downtown Livermore to build the facility.
“Then it was really the community that began the fund drive,” said John Yee, MD, vice president of clinical initiatives for Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare, who joined the hospital in 1982.
Residents, Yee said, walked door to door seeking donations, and local employers ran pledge drives. “Every month, every paycheck, they’d donate $1, or $2, or $10,” he said. “The community is really how the hospital came about, and the board of directors came out of these members who pledged money into the system.”
Local leaders also applied for government grants to match the community-raised funds, and on Oct. 2, 1961, Valley Memorial Hospital opened with 46 beds and a staff of 23.