News Center

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A century of healing, hope and inspiring good health in Central Indiana

Franciscan St. Francis Health observes its 100th anniversary

INDIANAPOLIS – In an era of both innovation and uncertainty, two Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration arrived in Beech Grove, Indiana in 1909 at the invitation of Father Peter Killian, pastor of the fledgling Holy Name Catholic Church.

The newly-formed city of Beech Grove was part of the industrial community on Indianapolis’ south side, but no health care facilities were available for the workers or the residents, many of whom had nowhere to turn for medical treatment. The Sisters recognized this need and the opportunity to serve.
The Sisters traveled by buggy from Lafayette, Ind., where they had opened their first hospital in the United States, St. Elizabeth, in 1876. Founded in 1863 by Mother Theresia Bonzel in Olpe, Germany, the Sisters of St. Francis were known for living out the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, caring for the poor and those in need of health care.

“When Mother Theresia started our congregation, she didn’t intend to leave Europe,” said Sister Marlene Shapley, vice president of mission services for Franciscan St. Francis Health. “But because of the culture war on the Roman Catholic Church, coupled with the invitation of Bishop Dwenger to establish a convent in Indiana, she placed her trust in God, put six sisters on a boat and sent them to America. And we flourished because of her faith.”

After several years of construction and just before the start of World War I, on July 5, 1914, St. Francis Hospital was dedicated to care for the sick in central Indiana. The original hospital building had 75 beds, offering medical and surgical services, an operating room, X-ray and laboratory facilities, a pharmacy and an emergency room. In its first full year, it admitted 347 patients.

Over time, the St. Francis Hospital expanded in size and fostered innovation. Record-setting and noteworthy additions included Indiana’s first cobalt radiation therapy area for cancer in 1957; the 1969 installation of a Coulter S. Blood Analyzer to provide complete blood analysis in 40 seconds; and the development of a Special Care Nursery for ill newborns in 1975.

By the time of the last expansion in Beech Grove in the 1970s, the hospital included 500 beds. Through the 1980s, hospital services and programs grew and more space was necessary to support new technologies and serve an ever-growing population in central Indiana. 

In an effort to increase care across the region, the Indianapolis hospital, located on Emerson Avenue, was constructed in 1995. It offered space, interstate access and room to grow while still providing care to existing south side communities, as well as new communities. 

It first served as an outpatient center complementing the Beech Grove hospital. As needs in the communities continued to grow, a full range of inpatient services were added to the Indianapolis campus.

However, as the model of health care changed, focusing on wellness and closer management of chronic diseases, inpatient stays grew shorter and fewer in numbers. At that time it became necessary to consolidate services to the Indianapolis campus and close the Beech Grove facility in spring of 2012.

Though a difficult and carefully considered decision, combining the two hospitals under one roof enabled more efficiency and cost-savings, eliminated duplication of services and further enhanced the level of care patients expect and deserve.

In 2000, the Sisters pursued an opportunity to serve southwest of Indianapolis and acquired Kendrick Memorial Hospital, now Franciscan St. Francis Health-Mooresville.  Kendrick had its earliest beginnings in 1881 with Clark Robbins, MD, and was one of the first facilities in the nation to provide specialization in colon and rectal care. Through its early years, and under the guidance of several physicians including William Kendrick, MD, in 1956, it flourished. 

Over time, its services diversified and grew to include internationally-recognized joint replacement surgery. Franciscan St. Francis Health added outstanding cancer care, obstetric services, outpatient surgery, imaging, lab and emergency services serving Morgan County, southwest Marion County and beyond.

The latest addition to the central Indiana region is Franciscan St. Francis Health-Carmel, a new model of short-stay hospital which opened in mid-2012. It offers a variety of orthopedic and outpatient surgery, along with primary and specialty care offices and imaging, lab and physical therapy services.

Today, Franciscan St. Francis Health treats more than 23,000 inpatients and 1.4 million outpatients yearly at its three campuses. Many of its services are ranked nationally for clinical excellence. In fact, the Indianapolis campus has received the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence for the past three years, placing it in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the nation. Heart and orthopedic services, among others, also received top honors for clinical care.

Franciscan St. Francis Health is a division of Franciscan Alliance, which includes 13 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois. It also acquired what is now known as Franciscan Visiting Nurse Service and Franciscan Immediate Care to better serve the growing needs of patients. Franciscan Physician Network, also a division of Franciscan Alliance, includes more than 200 primary and specialty care physicians in the central Indiana region alone.

Although the system has expanded tremendously over the century, the Sisters have remained constant in their mission: “Continuing Christ’s Ministry in Our Franciscan Tradition.”

“As I look back on our 100 years, I see that our greatest strength with Franciscan Alliance, and in particular Franciscan St. Francis Health, is the Sisters’ and this organization’s commitment to our mission and values,” said Robert J. Brody, president and CEO of Franciscan St. Francis. “I feel blessed to be associated with this organization.”

Franciscan St. Francis is celebrating its 100th anniversary with activities throughout 2014. A permanent historical photo display was installed at Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis near the outpatient entrance and will feature a 100-year video later this year.
Employees will enjoy an old-fashioned picnic as well as have the opportunity to give back to the community through service projects.

The public also is invited to join the celebration at the highlight of this year’s events. The Franciscan St. Francis Health Centennial Gala is Saturday, Sept. 27 at the JW Marriot in Indianapolis. The gala will celebrate the compelling history of Franciscan St. Francis but will also focus on its future.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the hospital’s Hospice House, whose construction began earlier this summer. The facility is slated to open in 2015 and is expected to serve 600 patients and families annually.