Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital has been serving the people of Appleton and the Fox Cities for more than a century. With a history rich in hope and compassion, St. Elizabeth Hospital’s mission – to bring the healing and peace of Christ to people in all stages of life – is as relevant today as ever.
The story of St. Elizabeth Hospital began in 1899. At the request of Bishop Sebastian G. Messmer of Green Bay, four women from the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in St. Louis came to Appleton to build and run a hospital.
They set up the hospital in an 11-room wood house on Fremont Street. The sisters cared for patients, planted crops, raised animals, cooked, cleaned and handled administration. Money was tight. Doctors and neighbors helped the sisters raise money for necessary medical supplies, beds and other equipment. The sisters went door to door collecting money and donations. Donations often included non-monetary gifts such as chicken, geese and vegetables.
The sisters’ dedication helped St. Elizabeth Hospital grow and offer more services. Eventually, the hospital outgrew the house on Fremont Street.
Construction and Growth
In 1900, the sisters purchased eight acres and began construction of a new two-story brick building with 50 beds, a surgical suite, X-ray machine, laboratory, pharmacy and laundry. By 1919, the hospital staff included 27 sisters.
Continued population growth in the Appleton area meant further expansion for St. Elizabeth Hospital. The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary contributed $200,000, and Appleton-area residents contributed $300,000 to build a five-story, red brick building in 1924.
In 1957, St. Elizabeth Hospital added an intensive care unit, surgical recovery room and psychiatric unit. Seven years later, in 1964, the hospital established the first intensive coronary care center in Wisconsin. In 1966, construction began on a five-story south wing and a three-level east wing with X-ray, laboratory, emergency, outpatient and special studies departments.
Twenty-four hour emergency care at St. Elizabeth began in 1971, with an emergency department staffed by 11 doctors. The new emergency department treated 18,000 patients in its first year. Two years later, in 1973, the hospital established a rehabilitation program to help patients recovering from stroke, head and spinal cord injuries.
In 1979, the hospital expanded again. The $4.5 million project included larger facilities for outpatient, laboratory, X-ray and emergency services. The same year, St. Elizabeth Hospital became the first hospital in Northeast Wisconsin to offer a nutritional support team of doctors, dietitians, nurses and pharmacists.
The 1980s saw the arrival of St. Elizabeth Hospital’s 24-hour pharmacy, making it the only hospital pharmacy in the Fox Cities to offer round-the-clock service. The Kathleen Mortell Rankin Hospitel opened in 1983 to offer affordable lodging for family members of hospital patients.
St. Elizabeth and Affinity
In 1995, St. Elizabeth Hospital and Mercy Medical Center joined forces to form Affinity Health System. Two years later, St. Elizabeth opened the Fox Cities’ first hospital-based subacute care unit. The 20-bed subacute unit gives Medicare-certified inpatient nursing care, therapies and support services to patients who no longer need hospital care but are not yet well enough to return home.
The Madison Center, a medical office building adjacent to the hospital, opened in 1997. The following year, St. Elizabeth Hospital opened a new state-of-the-art intensive care unit with special mobile equipment consoles that allow medical workers to perform many procedures without leaving the patient’s side.
St. Elizabeth Hospital celebrated its 100 birthday in 1999, marking a century of service to the community.
Innovations and Recognition Continue
The pace of innovation at Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital continues. In 2000, the hospital installed new MRI equipment, making Ascension the only provider of spectroscopy in the area. The 2001 partnership between Ascension and UW Health resulted in the creation of the Ascension/UW Children’s Health Center for specialty pediatric care on the hospital campus. The same year, the Ascension Breast Center opened at the hospital.
Ascension St. Elizabeth hospital received recognition for its contributions to local health care in 2002, when Solucient named it a “Top 100 Hospital for Cardiovascular Care.” Solucient honored the hospital again the following year by naming it one of the “100 Top Hospitals Benchmarks for Success.” In 2003, the hospital’s Cancer Care program received three-year accreditation by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. Solucient named Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital a “Top 100 Most-Improved Hospital” in 2004 and a Top 100 hospital for patient quality and financial performance in 2005.
In 2006, Ascension Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital expanded its facilities again, adding a sunny new 50,000-square-foot atrium lobby with an indoor garden and waterfall. The natural amenities in the lobby do more than just look good – they aim to make the patient experience more relaxing and show the hospital’s commitment to the earth. Ascension St. Elizabeth is the first hospital in Wisconsin to use the environmentally-friendly concepts of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) U.S. Green Building Council Rating System.
The innovation and growth started by the Franciscan Sisters more than 100 years ago continues today. Their spirit of Christ-centered care will carry Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital forward, fulfilling its mission for years to come.