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A Hospital Is Born
On February 17, 1914 Saint Francis Hospital accepted its first official patient, Theodore Bromley, of 106 1 /2 North Clinton Street, Poughkeepsie. The new hospital contained 40 beds and treated 751 patients in its first year.
The physicians enlisted the help of Msgr Joseph Sheahan, pastor of St Peter’s Roman Catholic church to approach John Cardinal Farley of New York to secure Nursing Sisters to establish the hospital. The Sisters of St Francis of Hastings of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin from Hastings on Hudson responded to the request and sent Mother Sebastian and Sister M. Michael to Poughkeepsie for that purpose. The original hospital was the large home of Mayor Daniel Webster Wilbur. With only five dollars and the assistance of Catholic Women’s organizations who made the linens, they began a 97 year history of commitment to the health needs of the community. Over 100 Sisters have ministered at SF, 35 of whom were administrators. In 1914 a school of nursing was opened and trained hundreds of nurses. The school remained open until 1970.
The first few years were a time of both growth and struggle for the new hospital. In 1916 and again in 1919, fires heavily damaged buildings. An influenza epidemic in 1918 brought hundreds of patients to Saint Francis Hospital. As many as 300 people were treated without charge that year. "There were many days...when affairs looked very black indeed, and when by only the most stringent economy were we able to keep our institution open," wrote a historian of the hospital in 1922. It was in 1919 that a committee of local citizens launched a major funding drive for Saint Francis Hospital, which after only five years in operation, was feeling the need for larger, more modern facilities. Despite the national war debt, nearly $100,000 was gathered. Even as fundraising proceeded, the hospital was growing, with ten beds added in 1920 thanks to an $18,000 gift from local banker Oakleigh T. Thorne.
Expansion Through the 1980's
In 1921, the hospital board approved construction of a new main building, a four-story brick structure that would include, among other things, three large operating rooms, one of which was dedicated to eye, ear, nose, and throat surgery; private and semiprivate rooms; a 12-bed men's ward; and a 12-bed women's ward. When the unit opened the following year, there was one more grand touch: a subway connecting the hospital's buildings, thanks to a $20,000 donation provided by Archbishop Patrick Hayes.
In 1924, the new Roosevelt main building was opened, replacing the original mansion and providing 60 beds for patients. Twenty-seven years later, in 1951, the Oakleigh T. Thorne and Joseph T. Towers Wings were dedicated, more than doubling the size of the hospital at a cost of $2.3 million. In 1959, the Spellman Pavilion was added, and Mass was celebrated in the new chapel for the first time. Expansion continued at the hospital with the 1977 dedication of the Neumann Wing, followed by the 1982 construction of the Cooke Pavilion.
More Community Additions
In 1985, Saint Francis Hospital acquired the former Highland Hospital in Beacon which served as The Turning Point, a 100-bed inpatient and outpatient alcohol and chemical dependency treatment center (which is now located in Poughkeepsie at 241 North Road). The Beacon campus also still currently serves as a home to the Panichi Family Center for Communication and Learning which houses our Special Needs Preschool Program.
Home Care Services was added in 1987 and the following year, the hospital established a Day Care Program in the Convent that eventually expanded to a second, larger site in Spackenkill.
In 1990, what was then a state-of-the-art 3-dimensional, high-speed helical CAT Scan system was acquired, and the hospital became the first in the area to own and operate its own MRI unit. In 1991, the hospital opened the Sleep Disorders Lab, which in 2003 received a 5 year accreditation and designation as a Sleep Center.
In 1992, Saint Francis Hospital adopted a "CREST of Values" to serve as the guiding principles for each individual who shares in our mission. Each member of the Saint Francis team works individually and collaboratively to make our values of Creativity, Respect, Excellence, Service and Teamwork present in dealings with each other and those we are privileged to serve. It is important to note here, that Crest of values originally noted C ws for Creativity. However, in recent times, in keeping with our Catholic/Franciscan heritage it was changed to Compassion,
To recognize its work as a leader in Orthopedics, the Hospital established the Orthopedic Center of Excellence in 1993, and today offers the only fully-dedicated Joint Replacement Center in the region. Also in 1993, Saint Francis Hospital was designated as the Area Trauma Center by the New York State Department of Health. It was recognized as the busiest Level II Trauma Center in New York State in 2004.
In 1995, a $5 million capital drive was undertaken to expand trauma and emergency facilities-- creating the George T. Whalen Family Trauma Center -- and to upgrade patient monitoring systems in the Emergency Room and Operating Room. Additionally, the Endoscopy Suite and Same Day Surgery Center were added, the latter of which would be named for legendary philanthropist James J. McCann. Mair Way -- the Hospital's main passageway connecting The Atrium to the main hospital building – was named for Hospital and Hudson Valley benefactors Peg and Bill Mair who left the Hospital a major bequest of $1 million that was included in this campaign.
Responding to requests from physicians who wanted to locate their offices close to the hospital, the Medical Office Building at 243 North Road opened in 1998. Two years later The Atrium at Saint Francis Hospital – a 150,000 sq. ft. facility – opened featuring a new state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center, diagnostic imaging center, community conference center, cafeteria, and private physician offices.
Keeping The Promise
Saint Francis Hospital suffered the loss of its President Emeritus, Sister Ann Elizabeth, who died on March 17, 2002 at age 91. She was an integral part of the hospital and its guiding light for almost 70 years, holding leadership positions in the School of Nursing and the Hospital. Sister Ann served as Administrator and President of Saint Francis Hospital from 1962 until her retirement in 2001. In recognition of her extraordinary service, the Atrium Surgery Center was dedicated to Sr. Ann in 2001.
The Saint Francis Hospital Cancer Center opened in 2002, followed by the dedication of the Fr. Brinn Center for Psychiatric Care in the Emergency Care Center in 2003.
Now, as in 1913 when five Sister foundresses responded to Community needs, the Sisters of St. Francis continue to be present and look forward with the entire Saint Francis Hospital team to upholding this noble legacy as we approach one century of service.