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Berlene Singleton – A Community Hospital Icon

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BY MICHAEL REISIG –

For over 60 years our area hospital (now Mena Regional Health System) has served and healed this community. Part of its success has been the quality of its employees, and one of those employees, for the better part of the hospital’s history, is Berlene Singleton. In fact, if you’ve been a patient of our hospital in the last half-century Singleton has taken care of your paperwork. Berlene has spent the last 44 years at her job in business records and she carries the distinction of having the longest employee tenure of any person who has ever worked for this hospital. She has watched the name of the hospital change several times over the years, and she has seen it go from a small building where it’s doctors did house calls and took the money for their services from their patients, offering minimal surgical procedures, to a state-of the-art organization with outstanding emergency and in-hospital services, and top-quality personnel and doctors, and a state-of-the-art billing system. She is retiring soon, with honors, and it is certain that her friends and the hospital will miss her remarkable memory and organizational skills.

Singleton was born and raised in Pencil Bluff. She went to school at Oden and graduated from high school in 1959. She attended Dran’s School of Business in Little Rock for a couple of years, then went on to work for a variety store in Little Rock.

“I moved to Mena in 1967 and went to work at Renova Shirt Factory,” she recalled. “Then, in 1969, I got a job at the old hospital, where DHS is now. I was working in the business office. I stayed there until the hospital moved to its present location – it was called Wilhelmina Medical Center back then.

“When I first started at the old hospital we did everything by hand – no computers – all the filing was done piece by piece and we had to write out every piece of information,” she continued. “I watched the process go from hand writing to typewriters, to posting machines, to computers.” (But her co-workers will tell you she’s more efficient than a computer in her remarkable understanding of how everything works in that office).

“In the beginning we didn’t have titles, but today they call me a data clerk,” Singleton added. (But her coworkers say if they have a problem with charges on an account they have Berlene look at it before going any farther).

The hospital has changed considerably, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that everyone knows the little lady in billing – Berlene Singleton, a lady who dedicated 44 years of her life to the service of the hospital and the community.

“It makes me feel good, to have been a part of this,” Singleton said. “I’m very proud of the time I’ve had here, and I’m pleased to be respected by my fellow employees. They finally gave me my own office, after 25 years,” she said with a wry smile.

“I have no idea what I’ll do now that I’m retiring. Maybe I’ll do a little volunteering at the hospital,” she added. “I’ll just figure it out as I go.”