140 Years: A Legacy of Healing
The Vision for a Hospital
Reverend Francis van der Bom was a determined man – a man with a vision for a better Saginaw. Pastor of Saint Mary Catholic Church, Father van der Bom knew the city needed a hospital. In 1893, Michigan had no hospital north of Detroit and there were people in Saginaw and the surrounding areas in need of care – especially those in the lumbering forests and sawmills.
Father van der Bom, wrote to Mother Superior of the Daughters of Charity, requesting Sisters to begin a hospital in Saginaw to care for its people. The Daughters of Charity were widely recognized as excellent nurses and as pioneers in establishing hospitals in America’s newly developing wilderness settlements.
A Hospital is Born
On Saturday, August 21, 1874 four Daughters of Charity arrived in Saginaw prepared to do God’s work in the wilderness and founded the city’s first hospital, which was also the only hospital north of Detroit.
Father van de Bom took the Sisters to see the temporary facility leased for the new hospital – the Monitor House, formerly a hotel and boarding house had 15 rooms; 11 to serve as patient rooms while the remaining four would become a chapel, kitchen, refectory and parlor.
September 1, the first patient was admitted, with typhoid fever. In its first four months, the hospital served 45 patients; in its first year, 75. Saint Mary’s quickly outgrew its temporary quarters and in 1875, it moved to a larger building financed with unique $5 prepaid certificates. The new, three-story hospital at 818 Owen Street housed 80 patients.
To raise funds for the construction of a new hospital, the Daughters began a highly successful program of selling prepaid insurance to laborers in the lumber camps and sawmills. Five dollars would ensure that the purchaser received up to a year’s medical, surgical and nursing care, along with room and board at St. Mary’s. The only exclusions were for contagious diseases and for injuries caused while under the influence of alcohol.
This ‘insurance plan’ endured until 1899 and was perhaps the nation’s first prepaid health program. Its like would not be seen in Michigan again until 1939 with the advent of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
In a letter written by Sister Elizabeth Roche in November 1874, she recounts an injured lumberjack’s plea to his fellow logging camp mates to come to St. Mary’s for care and for life. "If any of you get sick or hurt, do not stay there to die, but for God’s sake, strike for this place, there is life here.”
Poised for the Future
Over the years, St. Mary’s has been noted as being the leaders in innovation, pioneering new technologies and compiling a long list of Saginaw firsts. St. Mary’s performed the region’s first open heart surgery in 1984 and was also the first in the region to offer a comprehensive cancer treatment center which now boasts the two most advanced radiation treatment technologies in the world; CyberKnife and TomoTherapy. In addition, St. Mary’s was first in the region to acquire the da Vinci robotic surgery system which is used for prostate removal, hysterectomies and various cardiac procedures. FlightCare, now in its 27th year of service, was the first medical helicopter transport service in the area and has transported nearly 11,000 critically ill patients throughout Michigan. Firmly believing that healing the body, mind and spirit go hand-in-hand, St. Mary’s of Michigan strives to transform health care through patient-centered, holistic care of the highest quality.
About St. Mary’s of Michigan
St. Mary’s of Michigan is a regional health system offering high quality care in cardiovascular, neurosciences, orthopedics, emergency and trauma care, cancer care, bariatrics, imaging diagnostics and primary care. St. Mary’s of Michigan was the first verified Level II Trauma Center and certified Primary Stroke Center in the region. With 268 beds and over 20 specialty centers, St. Mary’s provides access and care for people from over 70 counties, primarily the mid, northern and thumb regions of Michigan. Our health ministry includes St. Mary’s of Michigan Towne Centre, St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital and St. Joseph Health System in Tawas.
St. Mary’s of Michigan Towne Centre offers a family-friendly emergency department, outpatient surgery center, digestive care center, x-ray and mammography, laboratory, pain management center and wound care center. St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital is a critical access hospital with 25 acute and critical care beds, a full service emergency department, and a 39-bed skilled nursing facility. St. Joseph Health System provides a full spectrum of medical services, health screenings and educational programs. St. Joseph has 49 licensed beds and multiple outpatient service centers and physician offices, serving Northeast Michigan.
St. Mary’s of Michigan, Standish Hospital and St. Joseph Health System are members of Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system.
800 South Washington Avenue | Saginaw, MI 48601 | (989) 907-8000 | 1-844-907-8000