For more than 100 years St. Joseph Health Services has lived up to its promise: to heal, to care and to make a difference in the lives of people.
A History of Caring and Healing
St. Joseph Hospital first opened its doors to the 'poor and suffering sick of Rhode Island' on April 6, 1892 under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.Its home was the old Harris Estate along Broad Street between Peace and Plenty Streets in an area then considered one of the wealthiest and most fashionable neighborhoods in Providence. St. Joseph Hospital became the eighth hospital in the United States to be run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, a religious community then based in Philadelphia.
The three-story Harris mansion, purchased by Bishop Matthew Harkins in August 1891, was filled to capacity soon after its opening. Within months, plans were made and funds were raised for a new 175-bed hospital building erected next door by William Gilbane and Brothers, of Providence, on adjacent land. Ground was broken in April 1893 and the cornerstone was laid on July 1, 1893 in a celebration that drew a crowd along Broad Street estimated at upwards of 50,000. James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, was principal speaker.
From 188 patients to 90,000
In its first year, the hospital spent $29,332 and treated 188 patients. Today, St. Joseph Health Services has more than 1,800 employees, a staff of 300 physicians and dentists, treats more than 90,000 patients annually and has expenses of $114 million.
It has been a fascinating 100-year evolution for this hospital, whose mission to help those in need has been strengthened in the 1990's.
Within weeks of its opening in 1892, The Diocese of Providence realized that the modest facility could not meet the demand for its services. The Sisters could only accommodate one-tenth of the people who came to their door seeking medical treatment. In addition to its expansion next door, St. Joseph Hospital opened its own School of Nursing. The first class graduated in 1902, joining the hospital staff in meeting the community's health care needs.
To meet an increasing demand for care of patients with tuberculosis, the hospital in 1904 opened the state's first sanitarium on its farm in the Hillsgrove section of Warwick, a facility for the chronically ill that remained open for 50 years.
The hospital again had 'growing pains' before the 1920's were over. In 1929, construction began on a new West Wing of the main building, providing additional facilities for medical surgical patients. Six years later, an advanced program for Rhode Island's crippled children was opened at the hospital.
Wherever and whenever there was a pressing community need, St. Joseph Hospital responded. In 1938, it cared for many people injured by the severe hurricane that battered New England as well as victims of illnesses brought on by the disaster that claimed more than 300 lives and caused $200 million in damage.
When the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, St. Joseph Hospital offered its facilities to the armed forces. The Navy designated the facility as a dependents' hospital to care for the wives and children of Navy servicemen until adequate facilities were made available a the Quonset Point Naval Air Station and the Newport Naval Hospital.
Fatima joins the fold
In 1954, the Diocese of Providence opened a new 175-bed facility, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, in North Providence. Initially designed as a hospital for the chronically ill, it replaced St. Joseph Hospital's Hillsgrove chronic care facility in Warwick. Fatima became a general hospital in 1955 and expanded in 1960 when 100 beds were added. Over the next three years, the Harris Estate mansion was razed, along with the East Wing the opened in 1893. They were replaced by the Bishop William E. Stang Memorial Building in 1964.
By the end of the 1960s, the Diocese decided to merge St. Joseph and Our Lady of Fatima Hospitals under a single administration and identity. The shared facilities at the Fatima Unit in North Providence and the Providence Unit on the original site off Broad Street became the second-largest general hospital in Rhode Island.
The hospital today is a general acute care facility operating under the patronage of the Diocese of Providence. It offers treatment in 28 medical surgical specialties and has a nationally recognized Ambulatory Care Center and 24-hour Emergency Care Center.
In addition to operating the state's only hospital-based school of nursing, it also runs schools of medical technology, cyto-technology and histo-technology.
Entering a new century
As St. Joseph Hospital prepares to enter its second century of service, it is going through a rebirth as a result of a three-year restructuring program that began in November 1990.
All acute medical and surgical, coronary intensive care and emergency services are being consolidated at the Fatima Unit in North Providence, which will become a center of clinical excellence offering the most advanced medical instrumentation and clinical technologies available.
The Providence Unit has been transformed into a regional specialty hospital for rehabilitation and psychiatric services. It is also home to our inner-city primary care center, The Center for Health and Human Services.
In 2009, St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island formally affiliated with Roger Williams Medical Center to form CharterCARE Health Partners.