Happy Birthday to Mount Carmel East Hospital which turns 40 years old today and like most stories of Columbus, this one has its roots firmly planted in Franklinton.
In the early 1880s, the former Board President of the Columbus Medical College, Dr. W. B. Hawkes, realized that Columbus needed an additional hospital. He collaborated with Dr. John Hamilton and construction began on a 4-story red brick building in Franklinton with 18 private rooms. Dr Hawkes had made a small fortune in the stagecoach business and had invested a great deal of his own money into the hospital project before his death in 1883.
Dr. Hamilton took over the project after Dr Hawke’s demise and he knew he needed additional assistance to run the hospital. With the go-ahead from the Bishop of Columbus, he approached the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame Indiana and on July 5, 1886 Mother M. Angela and Sister M Rufina Dunn became the first of a long line of Catholic Nuns who worked to bring the new hospital into being.
The Holy Cross Sisters found good friends in the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Columbus who provided the hospital with bread and vegetables. They also found allies at Columbus City Hall who arranged for free water, gasoline and mail delivery for the new hospital.
Additionally, the Holy Cross Sisters asked local doctors to provide free services as they wished to provide as much charity to the poor of Columbus as possible. On July 16, 1886, the hospital was dedicated as the Hawkes Hospital of Mount Carmel and was blessed by Vicar General Monsignor Speat. This spirit of nurturing and caring for the poor would take firm roots and is still well in evidence today.
By the turn-of-the Century, the hospital was starting to grow and in 1903 a school for nurses was organized. In 1908 a six-story addition was added that included a chapel with stained glass windows and statuary depicting the Holy family.
By that time, the Sisters also purchased a 140-acre farm on the Far East side past the city limits. They thought that it would be a good idea to have a place for recreation and in the years following, the farm would come to supply the hospital and staff with milk, strawberries, corn, potatoes and other produce.
The hospital continued to grow and embrace the west side of Columbus, being lovingly referred to as “The Ark” during the terrible flood of 1913 for offering up so much shelter, medical attention and food to as many people as they could. By the 1930s, the hospital had grown from the original capacity of 18 beds to seeing over 7,000 patients a year. In the 1940s , the staff had grown to 77 physicians performing over 4,000 operations a year.
By 1953, the hospital had graduated its first male nurse and had expanded again with a new Physical Medicine Department in a new building. Mt Carmel now had 415 beds and boasted new “electrical doors” which open automatically as stretchers are rolled under a “magic beam”
The growth of Columbus through the 1950s and 1960s prompted Mt Carmel to propose a new hospital on the East side of the city and planning for Mt Carmel East on the former farmland began in earnest in 1966.
On April 17, 1972, Mt Carmel East officially opened its doors and welcomed its first patient with a bouquet of Roses and offered the citizens of Columbus and Franklin County a new 233 bed hospital. Of particular interest to me is the headline of the Columbus Dispatch from October 1, 1972 that read – “At Mount Carmel East Hospital, Computers are assisting doctors by taking extensive medical histories of patients.”
In 1980, Mt Carmel East expanded again with a new building and in 1988 opened a women’s health center that specialized in breast care. In 1993 MCE dedicated its South Patient tower and in 2000, welcomed the first child born in Columbus during the new millennium!
In 2010, Mt Carmel Health System provided over 147 million dollars of community outreach programs, which include mobile clinics that serve low-income residents as well as the homeless. Mt Carmel Health CEO Claus von Zychlin stated to The Dispatch in 2011 that “more than 200,000 people in Columbus received a portion of those benefits.” He also stated that while “the hospital is based on Catholic Heritage, that includes the ability to care for everyone who comes to our doors.”
So Happy Birthday Mount Carmel East! I wish you many happy returns and hope that you continue to operate with the values that were expressed by my friend Carol Stewart who is an institution in Franklinton and the beating heart of the Franklinton Historical Society. She recently told The Dispatch – “There is an air about Mt Carmel that you’ll be taken care of and they care what happens to you. They’re a good friend to the neighborhood.”