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Mercy Hot Springs (formerly St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center), the second-oldest hospital in Arkansas, has served the medical needs of Hot Springs (Garland County) and its surrounding communities since 1888. A member of the not-for-profit, faith-based Mercy Health System, Mercy Hot Springs is a 309-bed, acute-care hospital located on Werner Street in Hot Springs.
In the 1880s, the Reverend Patrick McGowan, who settled in Hot Springs after retiring, asked Hot Springs physician Dr. J. M. Keller to buy a suitable building and its surrounding property for a hospital. In 1888, Mother Aloysius Burke and Sister Mary Clare, two Sisters of Mercy, came to Hot Springs from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to prepare the thirty-bed hospital, St. Joseph’s Infirmary, for its grand opening. The hospital opened to Hot Spring residents on September 24, 1888. By the turn of the century, it was evident that an expansion was needed to accommodate the growing number of patients, and a five-story brick annex was added to the original frame structure.
During these early years, several different sisters served as superior for St. Joseph’s Infirmary, including Mother Aloysius Burke, Mother Mary Xavier Nolan, and Mother Mary Scholastica Daly. The Sisters of Mercy opened St. Joseph’s Training School for nurses in 1905. This school, which served the Hot Springs area until 1962, combined rigorous clinical training with the formation of Christian values and principles. In 1921, St. Joseph’s Infirmary changed its name to St. Joseph’s Hospital.
St. Joseph’s made rapid progress in the 1960s and decades beyond, opening its Coronary Care Unit in 1966, the first of its kind in Arkansas and one of the first in the country. The first open-heart surgery was performed at St. Joseph’s in August 1984, and an ambulatory care center was opened later that year.
Over the years, the hospital campus underwent many additions and renovations. The first two St. Joseph’s buildings were used in conjunction with one another from 1903 until 1924, when the original infirmary structure burned beyond repair. After the fire, the sisters bought even more property adjoining the hospital grounds, and ground was broken in 1927 for a new 158-bed hospital building facing Whittington Avenue. The hospital continued to expand and, in 1976, became St. Joseph’s Mercy Medical Center. Five years later, its name changed yet again to St. Joseph’s Regional Health Center. By the late 1980s, it had outgrown its Whittington Avenue location and moved to its new Werner Street location. In 2001, the hospital adopted the name St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center.
In keeping with a desire to provide integrated healthcare that is more personal, easier to access, and more directed to the needs of patients and communities, St. Joseph’s Mercy instituted in March 2008 an ever-growing, multi-specialty physician partnership called St. Joseph’s Mercy Clinic. Today’s hospital, renamed Mercy Hot Springs in 2012, has four Centers of Excellence—Mercy Heart and Vascular Center, Mercy Cancer Center, Mercy Women’s Center, and Mercy Diabetes and Wound Center. In addition, the hospital also operates the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center, which was the state’s first hospital-based facility for child abuse and neglect when it opened in 2003.
Due to financial difficulties, in April 2012, Mercy Hot Springs signed an “agreement in principle” to transfer ownership of the hospital to Capella Healthcare. However, opposition to the deal resulted in the cancellation of the merger in June 2013.
For additional information:Mercy Hot Springs. http://www.mercy.net/hotspringsar (accessed April 9, 2012).
Ramos, Jane. Arkansas Frontiers of Mercy: A History of the Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese of Little Rock. Fort Smith, AR: St. Edward’s Press, 1989.
Ben SheppardSt. Joseph’s Mercy Health System
Last Updated 6/27/2013
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