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A century-plus of giving to the community Special To The Star-news | Fri, Aug 13 2010 04:00 PM

San Diego County's largest and longest-established hospital, Scripps Mercy recently celebrated their 120th anniversary. Our legacy of healing began in 1890, when a small health care facility was founded to meet the medical needs of a city of 16,000 people. Led by Sister Mary Michael Cummings, the Sisters of Mercy opened the five-bed St. Joseph's Dispensary above a men's clothing store at the corner of Sixth Avenue and H Street (later renamed Market Street) with a grand total of $50. Hours later, a malaria victim became the first patient to receive care at the new facility. Sister Mary Michael soon realized the small dispensary's need for more space, so she persuaded the Sisters of Mercy to purchase 10 acres in Hillcrest and then raised $5,200 to build a three-story hospital in 1891. The new facility eventually grew to include 220 rooms, a residence for the elderly and a training school for nurses. In 1924 the newly renamed Mercy Hospital moved to the San Diego campuses current location on Fifth Avenue at Washington Street.

In 1964 the fast-growing city of Chula Vista welcomed the establishment of a new hospital to provide medical care to the underserved area. Bay General Community Hospital opened with 52 patient beds, and seven years later, the hospital tripled in size with the addition of a four-level tower for medical-surgical services. The hospital would experience another growth spurt in 1999, when it celebrated the opening of a new 24-hour emergency department, intensive care unit and lobby, which added 40,000 square feet and doubled the number of emergency department and ICU beds.

Bay General joined Scripps Health in 1986 and was renamed Scripps Memorial Hospital Chula Vista, while Mercy Hospital joined the system in 1995 and was renamed Scripps Mercy Hospital. The two campuses were integrated into one hospital in October 2004.

From its beginning as one of the first hospitals in San Diego County and on through its current position as the county's longest continuously established hospital, Scripps Mercy Hospital has sought to improve the medical care available to the community. In 1979 Mercy became the city of San Diego's first base hospital for paramedics, and on Feb. 2 of that year, the first documented paramedic save in the city occurred -involving a patient with a dissecting abdominal aorta. The following year Mercy Hospital raised $29 million through bonds issued by the city of San Diego, and in return, the hospital agreed to continue to provide various sophisticated medical services to the city and to train San Diego's 800 firemen to qualify as emergency medical technicians.

In 1982 the hospital council in San Diego commissioned an assessment on the need for a trauma system, and two years later the San Diego Trauma System, which included Mercy Hospital, was established. In 1988 San Diego was the first large city in the country to implement an early defibrillation program, placing defibrillators on all first-responder fire engines and trucks, and Mercy Hospital helped by training 12 fire stations on how to use the new equipment. In 2003, Scripps Mercy was designated by the American College of Surgeons as a Level 1 Trauma Center and today we provide care for more than 2,400 trauma patients each year. Meeting the strict criteria requires Scripps Mercy to provide in-house, immediately available, expert-care by a team of specially trained physicians and nurses.

Caring for the Future

As Scripps Mercy Hospital celebrates a rich history of service to San Diego County, we are looking ahead to how we can meet the needs of our community in the years to come. Mercy Hospital Foundation has launched Caring for the Future: The Campaign for Scripps Mercy Hospital to support the hospital's historic modernization and expansion project. To date, more than half of our $50 million goal has been raised. Phase I of the campaign has been funded and construction has begun on the new Conrad Prebys Emergency and Trauma Center. We are well on our way to funding Phase II, and with your help, we will continue a legacy of quality care that will benefit our community for many years to come.

To learn how you can make a gift to Caring for the Future: The Campaign for Scripps Mercy Hospital, please call Mercy Hospital Foundation at 619-686-3836 or visit www.scripps.org/ 120years.

Established in 1890 by the Sisters of Mercy, Scripps Mercy Hospital serves the Chula Vista and San Diego communities. With 700 licensed beds, more than 3,000 employees and 1,300 physicians, Scripps Mercy Hospital is San Diego's longest established and only Catholic hospital. With two campuses, Scripps Mercy Hospital is the largest hospital in San Diego County and one of the largest in California.

For more information, visit www.scripps.org.


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