The area surrounding this site was first settled in the late 1890s. For six decades, a handful of doctors and midwives provided rudimentary medical care to area residents. With the nearest hospital located 18 miles away in West Palm Beach, critical patients were transported by horse and buggy or by fire engine, and sometimes died en route. In 1947, South Palm Beach County civic leaders and physicians formed the Gulfstream Hospital Association to establish a nonprofit acute care hospital to serve the county's rapidly growing population. The association worked for almost a dozen years to create a special taxing district, raise needed capital, and acquire 10 acres of land needed to build and staff the hospital. The 70-bed Bethesda Memorial Hospital—named for the healing pool of Bethesda mentioned in the Bible—opened on February 9, 1959. The hospital was staffed by 32 doctors and six dentists. Bethesda Hospital's first patient had an emergency appendectomy; its first birth took place about a week after it opened. The hospital, now Bethesda Hospital East, began expanding within six months of opening, and has grown to become a 401-bed, full-service medical facility with more than 550 physicians in over 40 specialties.