From the time settlers first occupied the Owens Valley until the 1920s, babies were born at home. The sick and elderly were treated by those who could provide nursing care in the community or were taken 200-300 miles to find a hospital or medical expert. During the infamous Water Wars, the City of Los Angeles owned more than 80 percent of the real estate in this area, which eventually led to a surplus of large vacant homes. Doctors and nurses in our community were able to acquire the use of such buildings for hospital facilities through the generosity of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. However, the space and design challenges one faces while utilizing a house for a hospital pushed the issue for adequate health care facilities in 1944.
At this time, Dr. Bambauer, a Rotarian, was operating a small hospital of this nature on the corner of Grove and Fowler streets. This facility was in danger of closing due to financial hardships and was too small to service the needs of the community. The Bishop Rotary Club hosted a meeting to address the issue, which resulted in a committee of 11 citizens charged with addressing the threat of Dr. Bambauer's facility closing and securing adequate facilities for our growing community. This committee gave way to the incorporation of the Bishop Community Hospital and formed a Board of Directors. Collectively, our community raised $5.5 million to help support the expenses incurred by the hospital. It became clear the hospital would need on-going financial support to continue to service the needs of this remote and very rural community. The board decided to form a Hospital District, in order to support the hospital through local tax dollars; the only problem was Hospital Districts did not yet exist.
The visionary board members of the Bishop Community Hospital were instrumental in securing passage of Act S.B. 586, which authorized the legal formation of Hospital Districts in the state of California. In January of 1946, the Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District was formed under the Local Hospital District Law, a division of the Health and Safety Code of the State of California. IT became the first Hospital District in California. Around the same time, the U. S. Government had abandoned the Japanese Relocation Center at Manzanar. By October of 1946, the Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District had purchased all of the hospital equipment from the Manzanar facility (for $14,000) and had leased the 18-bed infirmary building at the Bishop Airport. In November of 1946, negotiations had begun for the purchase of the present site of Northern Inyo Hospital. On December 5, 1946, the Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District took over operations of the Bishop Community Hospital. The district was able to gain state and federal funding to help build a new facility (Northern Inyo Hospital), and construction started September 1, 1948. Doctors and nurses began caring for community members at the Northern Inyo Hospital upon its completion in October of 1949.
By 1968, the Northern Inyo Hospital had gained an Acute Care Unit and a significant addition, including a lobby, patient rooms, two operating rooms, labor and delivery rooms, emergency treatment facilities, and new areas for x-ray, laboratory, and pharmacy. In 1981, advances in critical care medicine were met with the opening of the new ICU/CCU wing. Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District has weathered many challenges over the decades: changing from tax-based funding for acute care to insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and Medi-Cal; increases in managed care; and increased outpatient services. Despite all of these challenges, the district has flourished due to the diligent leadership exhibited both in the hospital and in the community. The district, hospital administration, and the community have been dedicated to supporting and operating the Northern Inyo Hospital for nearly 75 years while managing to expand the auxiliary health care services available to the community through philanthropic and grant-based activities.
The Northern Inyo Healthcare District began a major transformation in 2012. Now completed, the hospital conforms to rigorous earthquake safety standards and houses some of the most state of art medical equipment in the area. Additionally, Northern Inyo Healthcare District is one of Inyo county's largest employers.