Kauai’s first hospital, a 20-bed facility, was built in Koloa by Koloa Plantation sometime during the 1880s.
A few years later, government physician Dr. Jared Smith erected a second, small hospital near his home in Koloa, with government support. The Garden Island’s third hospital, the 30-bed Lihue Hospital, was constructed in 1898.
Built upon four acres of Lihue Plantation land alongside the Lihue-Kapaia road at a cost of $10,000 financed by the stockholders of Lihue Plantation, with George Norton Wilcox and Albert Spencer Wilcox contributing liberally to the building fund, Lihue Hospital was originally founded for the benefit of Lihue Plantation and the Lihue district.
However, treatment of others was allowed soon after, in return for assistance in maintaining the hospital from the Hawaiian government through the Board of Health, while management of the hospital was entrusted to a board of directors, of whom the Rev. Hans Isenberg of Lihue Lutheran Church was especially active.
Modern in its day, Lihue Hospital was comprised of a parlor, rooms for trained nurses, fully appointed operating and treatment rooms, wards of the latest design for both male and female patients, as well as private wards to be used on special occasions, and a kitchen, pantry and dining rooms.
Detached government resident physician quarters were also erected on the grounds.
Following the establishment of Lihue Hospital, several seriously ill plantation laborers were successfully attended to at the hospital — patients who would otherwise have likely died had they’d been compelled to be treated exclusively in their plantation quarters.
Coincidently, it was about the time Lihue Hospital was opened that Lihue Plantation also led the way on Kauai in instituting improvements around the plantation houses of its laborers in the way of gardens and planting of fruit trees, etc.
Lihue Hospital was replaced in 1938 by the 86-bed G. N. Wilcox Hospital, named in honor of Kauai sugar pioneer and philanthropist George Norton Wilcox.
Over the years since then, G. N. Wilcox Hospital has expanded, modernized and evolved into the present Wilcox Medical Center.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.