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St. Mary’s Healthcare marks 110th anniversary

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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— Employees at St. Mary’s Healthcare are getting a special email each day this week as part of a quiet celebration of the 110th anniversary of St. Mary’s Hospital.

The Guy Park Avenue institution first opened in a mansion in April 1903 following five months of work by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — an order of Catholic nuns still involved in healing people in Amsterdam and around the world. They arrived after St. Mary’s parish leader Monsignor William Browne petitioned church leadership for permission to establish a hospital.

A “low-key” commemoration will end with cake for employees on Friday — or cupcakes for those in the external health centers established over the years.

In the beginning

Important dates in the formative years of what is now St. Mary’s Healthcare:

• The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet arrived in Amsterdam in early November 1902 and prepared the hospital’s first location in time for an April 19, 1903 opening.

• In 1905, carpet magnate Stephen Sanford donated land and a farmhouse opposite the hospital so the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet could have a convent.

• Ground was broken for a 20-room addition to the original hospital in 1912.

• St. Mary’s Hospital Superior Sister Mary Thomas Scanlin established the nurses training class in October 1920. The class became St. Mary’s School of Nursing, which operated until 1987.

• A new hospital building was completed in March 1927, featuring four operating rooms, an obstetrical section, medical and surgical floors, a laboratory, nurse cafeteria and other modern additions. The hospital was accredited by the American College of Surgeons that year.

The small remembrance doesn’t reflect what a major accomplishment it is these days for a hospital to remain open for more than a century, said Sister Danielle Bonetti, the hospital’s vice president of mission integration and a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

“It’s quite a feat to be able to stay thriving,” she said.

More than 30 hospitals and 50 nursing homes in the state have closed over the past decade, but St. Mary’s Healthcare grew larger as the others closed down.

The hospital took over Amsterdam Memorial Hospital, located on state Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam, in 2009, keeping that facility and its adjacent 160-bed Wilkinson Residential Healthcare Facility nursing home in operation.

Today, St. Mary’s Healthcare employs 1,600 people full and part-time operating 100 acute-care beds, seven health centers and a behavioral health service system dedicated to mental health in three counties.

The emergency room handles more than 30,000 patients each year — a busy number due to the hospital’s proximity to highways including the state Thruway.

A display of historic photos adorns the hallways leading to the cafeteria and employees are receiving history about the hospital’s first 10 years in their e-mails each day.

 
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