Scripps Mercy Hospital Celebrates its 125th Anniversary on July 9

Region's longest-established hospital admitted its first patient on July 9, 1890


Exactly 125 years ago today, Scripps Mercy Hospital admitted its first patient. And today, Scripps employees, community leaders and others marked that milestone with a special event that included the installation of a time capsule and a display of historic photos and medical artifacts at the Catholic hospital campus in Hillcrest.

A community celebration open to the public will be held on Saturday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the front lawn of the hospital, at 4077 Fifth Ave.

Glimpse at history

Led by Mother Mary Michael Cummings, in 1890 the Sisters of Mercy opened the five-bed St. Joseph’s Dispensary above a men’s clothing store in downtown San Diego, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and H Street (now Market Street). The facility admitted its first patient on July 9, a malaria victim named John O’Connell, who was treated successfully and was discharged after a 13-day stay.

A year later, the facility relocated to a 10-acre site in Hillcrest, on University Avenue between Sixth and Eighth avenues. It opened a new six-story hospital under the name Mercy Hospital in 1924, when it moved to its current location at Fifth Avenue and Washington Street. The facility joined the Scripps Health system in 1995 and today Scripps Mercy Hospital includes campuses in Hillcrest and Chula Vista.

“There were about 100 patients admitted to the hospital in its first year in 1890, compared to more than 32,000 annually today, so we have certainly grown with the communities we serve,” said Tom Gammiere, chief executive of Scripps Mercy Hospital. “And while there have been a lot of changes in health care, the heart and soul of our mission has remained the same – to provide high-quality, compassionate care to those in need.”

Legacy of leadership

From its earliest days, Scripps Mercy has been on the leading edge of health care. In 1890, the first cesarean section recorded on the West Coast was performed at St. Joseph’s. In 1904, it opened San Diego’s first training school for nurses, a three-year college that produced 1,550 graduates before closing in 1970. It is also home to San Diego’s longest-established graduate medical education program, and was the first hospital west of the Mississippi to earn accreditation from the American College of Surgeons.

Meeting today’s needs

Today, Scripps Mercy Hospital features a wide range of medical services offered in technologically advanced facilities. These include the Conrad Prebys Emergency & Trauma Center, a minimally invasive robotic surgery program and a nationally designated center of excellence for bariatric surgery. Scripps Mercy is also a certified STEMI receiving center (for fast and effective treatment of heart attacks) and offers a wide range of cancer services, including those found at the Woltman Family Infusion Center and the O’Toole Breast Care Center, the latter of which which opened in June.

At its two hospital campuses in fiscal year 2014, Scripps Mercy had 115,703 emergency room visits, 3,615 newborn deliveries and 9,415 patient visits to Mercy Clinic (an outpatient care clinic on the Scripps Mercy campus that serves at-risk populations, including the disabled and working poor). Scripps Mercy has 684 licensed beds, 1,051 affiliated physicians and is staffed by 2,824 employees of Scripps Health.

Giving back

Scripps Mercy invests significant resources into the communities it serves. In fiscal year 2014, Scripps Mercy Hospital devoted $115 million to community benefit programs in the communities of central San Diego and South County, home to some of the neediest populations in the region. Scripps Mercy Hospital accounts for more than two-thirds of Scripps’ overall charity care.

“Scripps is committed to serving downtown and the communities of central San Diego for many more years to come,” Gammiere said, noting that the time capsule would be opened in 75 years, during the hospital’s 200th anniversary celebration.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Stephen Carpowich
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