Shelby Baptist admits first patient to new South Tower

When Ernestine Yarbrough began working at what is now the Shelby Baptist Medical Center in 1967, the hospital was little more than a rural, two-story hospital.

The first floor housed the men’s patient rooms, the second floor housed the women’s rooms and the later addition of the third story was one of the largest construction projects in the county’s history at the time.

“When we got the third floor, I thought that was it,” laughed Yarbrough, 95, who worked at the hospital for nearly 20 years before retiring in the mid ‘80s. “They asked me to be a tour guide for the third floor, and I don’t even know how many tour trips I made.

“It’s hard to believe this is still the same place. The hospital I came from was a very tiny place,” Yarbrough added. “You just have no idea how I feel when I see this place today.”

Yarbrough, who has been living in Calera for nearly 70 years, was the first patient admitted to the Shelby Baptist Medical Center’s new South Tower Dec. 1. The $92 million, 101-room tower was completed in November, and began accepting patients early Dec. 1.

The five-story South Tower and accompanying 370-space parking deck capped off $150 million in projects completed at the hospital during the past four years.

Today, the large medical center off U.S. 31 in Alabaster barely resembles the hospital as it was more than 40 years ago.

“I wish a lot of the old nurses I worked under back then were alive to see this place today,” Yarbrough said. “We were like soldiers. We worked so hard to make this a good hospital.

“When I look at this place now, it’s just unbelievable,” she added. “I’m so happy and proud to see this. It took my breath away.”

Yarbrough’s family has a lengthy history of service at the hospital. After her retirement from the hospital in 1982, Yarbrough returned to the medical center in 1991 and served as a volunteer for 11 years.

“I would still be volunteering today, but I just got too old,” Yarbrough said, laughing.

Today, Yarbrough’s granddaughter, Shawn, works at the hospital as the manager of women’s services.

“It made me kind of tearful when they told me Granny was going to be the first patient admitted to the South Tower,” Shawn Yarbrough said. “It’s almost like it’s been a full circle.

“I actually developed my love for Shelby Baptist based on her,” Shawn Yarbrough added. “I think her love for Shelby Baptist has just transferred to me.”