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St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Healthcare - Health Services
5,000 - 10,000 employees  |  
St. Elizabeth's proud history of providing high quality medical care to the people of Northern Kentucky began in 1861. The accomplishments of this noble hospital and its people are too numerous to be chronicled on this website. Instead, highlights of each decade are featured. It is hoped these descriptions of St. Elizabeth's growth provide a portrait of the outstanding spiritual, psychological and physical care this hospital has and will continue to provide the residents of our community.

1860: - Covington resident Mrs. Henrietta Cleveland prevailed upon the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis in Cincinnati to found a hospital in Covington. At the request of Covington's first bishop, Rt. Rev. George Carrell, three sisters from Germany prepared St. Elizabeth Hospital, named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Mrs. Cleveland, Mrs. Sarah Peter, and ladies of the first St. Elizabeth Support Guild provided $2,272.05 for the purchase of a small 3-story former grocery store on 7th Street between Madison and Scott. This would become the hospital and home for the Sisters of the Order.

On January 23, 1861, the first patient, 37-year-old Louis Meyer, was admitted to St. Elizabeth Hospital. Dr. John Blau was the first physician to offer his services to the sisters. He was soon followed by Drs. Joseph Schwartz, Charles Kearns and E.N. Noonan. On February 2 the chapel was blessed and Mass celebrated. The kind sisters cared for 79 patients that year.

In the fall of 1867 the sisters learned they would have to relocate their hospital to make way for a marketplace. Thanks to the efforts of Rev. Conrad Rotter, pastor of St. Stephen's in Newport, $50,000 was raised so that the former Baptist College on 11th Street in Covington could be purchased. It had served as a military hospital during the Civil War and was quickly remodeled for a bed capacity of 110. Mother Francis Shervier, Foundress of the Franciscan Order, came from Germany to attend the dedication held on May 24, 1868.

1870: - The foundling home started by the sisters during the Civil War now sheltered as many as 60 orphans. This mission continued until 1919.

By 1876, 300 patients were treated each year. Finances remained tight. An 1877 newspaper story told how two sisters had to go out one day to beg for donations after a renovation project turned up $25 short.

In 1878 Covington authorities asked the sisters to admit inmates of the "Poor House" until a new building could be provided for them by the City.

Epidemics of smallpox appeared in Covington several times during the decade. After two patients in the hospital were found to have the fever, neighbors became so frightened and angered at having the disease in their midst they threatened to burn the hospital if those patients remained. With heavy hearts the sisters were forced to send smallpox patients to a "pest house" about four miles away. They took turns traveling by wagon to provide nursing care for the victims.

The first annual report issued in 1879 stated there were five doctors on staff. Only 26 patients died that year - 13 of consumption, 2 from cancer, 2 due to organic disease of the heart, and 1 each of typhoid fever, pneumonia, epilepsy, paralysis, and "ovarian dropsy."

1880: - In 1884 a local newspaper reported that St. Elizabeth Hospital was caring for 196 patients of whom 22 were orphans and 65 were people over the age of 80 "who had no place else to go."

During this time the climate in Covington was considered beneficial. Someone had decided the air was healthful and relieved problems of breathing. Consequently, many patients with tuberculosis were brought to St. Elizabeth from Cincinnati and other surrounding areas in the hope of obtaining relief.

1890: - Early physicians performed hospital autopsies in a separate building behind the hospital, but they had to be discontinued with the onset of hot weather because of the proliferation of green horseflies around the facility. Despite the many hardships and hazards of the day, dedicated physicians at St. Elizabeth continued to contribute and grow in knowledge of how best to ease the sufferings of their patients. These men set high standards for the physicians of future years.

Medicine, as well as science and industry, experienced a major breakthrough in November, 1895 when the X-ray was developed. Even early on its applications were numerous. St. Elizabeth Hospital and the citizens of Covington were early and progressively interested in the X-ray. John Robert Kelly and Albert B. Koett began manufacturing equipment for the utilization of the X- ray in 1903. The Kelly-Koett Manufacturing Company was based in Covington and achieved a world-wide reputation in the field.

1902: - Specialty services began to emerge during this decade with the opening in 1902 of an Ear, Eye, Nose and Throat Department by Dr. Hugo Aufmwasser.

1909: - Thanks to a "liberal contribution" from a philanthropic citizen, Mr. Nicholas Walsh, a laboratory was established. Quartered in a small, coal oil heated basement room, the lab was administered by its first director, Dr. William J. Gerding, who was assisted by Dr. James A. Ryan. For the first time lab tests, although crude, were performed. The equipment consisted of a handmade table, hand microtome, hand-driven centrifuge, a microscope, a few chemicals, and limited glassware. Only urinalyses, stool and sputum examinations, and a rare blood count were possible. However, all surgical specimens were carefully examined and many autopsies were performed. Unfortunately, no permanent records from this time are available. The building on 11th Street was showing its age. Also, since the hospital sat next to the train tracks, noise and smoke from the greatly increased train traffic was a constant annoyance to patients and staff. The 11 physicians on the first organized medical staff agreed to relocate the hospital, and property on 21st Street was purchased.

1910: - Ground was broken for the new hospital in June 1911, but because the sisters' funds were very low only the foundation of the building was constructed. Under the direction of Judge Frank M. Tracy, a "whirlwind campaign drive" was organized to raise the $100,000 needed for the new structure. A huge ten-day bazaar was held at the site of the new hospital.

Hundreds of workers were enlisted to help sell bazaar tickets door-to-door in Covington. The tickets were made more appealing by having each one represent a vote to the buyer for either the "Most Popular Girl in Northern Kentucky" (winning girl received a diamond ring); "Most Popular Streetcar Man in Covington" (winner was awarded season tickets to the Lyric Theater in Covington); or "Most Popular Boy in Covington" (he won a goat!).

In the end, a grand total of $102,977.44 was raised. The cornerstone was laid on June 14, 1912 and on August 1, 1914, the new four-story hospital with capacity for 270 patients plus quarters for 60 orphan children was dedicated. An estimated 15,000 people toured the building the following day to see firsthand this beautiful structure.

Ladies from parishes in Covington, Newport, Ludlow, Bellevue, and Dayton formed the "Circle of Mercy" in May, 1912. They aided personnel, doctors and the Sisters in the interest of St. Elizabeth and the community.

In 1915 St. Elizabeth opened a School of Nursing. There were 11 students in the first class. The school operated for a short time, closed and then reopened in 1929.

1920: - An innovation in service occurred when St. Elizabeth opened a "maternity annex" in March 1920. It consisted of Labor & Delivery Rooms, a nursery, supply rooms, a kitchen and 28 patient beds. In order to accomplish this, the 60 children then living in the Children's Home were transferred to other orphanages in the area. From April 1, 1920 to January 1, 1935 the hospital cared for 8,228 mothers and 8,307 newborn infants with a small percentage of mortality and morbidity.

Another improvement during this decade included the addition in 1921 of the first anesthesia department, consisting of three specially trained anesthetists proficient in the use of ether, chloroform, or gas anesthetics.

During the 1920s it became apparent there was a definite need to provide a separate, more appropriate area for sick children. They had been cared for on adult wards. Early in 1925 temporary quarters were made available and the children for the most part were separated from the adults. A retired physician from the community, Dr. Frank D. Crigler, became interested in St. Elizabeth's work with children. He made a liberal donation to St. Elizabeth and on February 1, 1927 the Grace Crigler Children's Ward containing 14 cubicles was opened.

In the summer of 1928, the Emergency and Clinic Department was organized. Up until this time all emergency cases were treated in the regular treatment room on the respective floors.

1930: - The total number of patients admitted in 1934 was 4,710. The Sisters of the Poor continued their tradition of caring for anyone in need. According to records, 884 were able to fully pay for their own care, 2,079 made partial payments, and 1,747 (some of whom were employees) were treated free-of-charge.

St. Elizabeth Hospital marked its Diamond Jubilee with a festive two-day bazaar. It featured a community card party and a grand raffle prize - a stunning new 1936 4-door Chevrolet sedan.

In 1936 the "Crusaders Club" was formed. The members of this group were of great assistance to the Sisters because of their efforts to raise funds to meet the ever growing technical needs of the hospital.

The Great Flood of January, 1937 reached 21st Street and filled the hospital's basement with over 15 feet of water. The elevators stopped running, gas and water were cut off, and supplies had to be brought in by rowboat. The hospital's laundry was taken out and done by groups of women in Florence and Hebron. A 16" catfish was even caught in the basement!

1940: - In 1942 a war service plaque with a blue background on which silver stars were mounted in the shape of a V was hung in the hospital lobby in honor of the St. Elizabeth doctors and nurses serving in World War II. Doctors in various service branches included Drs. C.W. Air, A.C. Poweleit, J. A. Vesper, and M. R. Walsh.

Also in 1942, the hospital sewing guild established a new production record by making, along with hundred of additional items, 62 aprons for orderlies, 94 bedpan covers, 188 pads for babies, and 151 doctors' masks.

Following the war, improvements in health care escalated. The Physical Therapy Department opened in 1945 and quickly proved its usefulness, especially in the care of orthopedic patients and the treatment and rehabilitation of the paralyzed.

In early 1946, a new children's orthopedic unit was presented to the hospital by the Rotarians of Northern Kentucky. And, the first psychiatric unit was planned and opened under the direction of Dr. R.C. Smith.

1950: - Major hospital expansions took place during this decade. A nurse's home, "Tarsicia Hall," named for Mother Tarsicia Marie who earlier had reorganized the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing, opened in 1950. It cost over $800,000 to build and provided living accommodations for 200 nurses plus educational and recreational facilities and administrative offices.

In 1950 an approved school of X-ray Technology was established as well as an approved program for training of Laboratory Technologists.

An expansion program in 1953 cost over one and a half million dollars. The Emergency Room and Outpatient Departments were enlarged and the Neurological Department, fully equipped to care for 17 "nervous and mental" patients, was opened. A communicable disease center for both adults and children also opened as a result of the polio epidemic in the mid 1940s.

Another expansion program took place in 1958. A new surgical wing was built and named the "Ryan Pavilion" in honor of Dr. James A. Ryan, a member of the 1910 surgical staff. A recovery room area was included, and maternity was extended. A large central cafeteria was built on the ground floor of the building and central supply was expanded. Also notable was the relocation of the X-ray Department. The space was greatly enlarged and all new equipment was purchased.

1960: - St. Elizabeth Hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1961. The hospital's budget was over $3 million and there were 670 employees, 17 of whom were Sisters. More than 400,000 patients had been admitted to the hospital during the first century of service.

In 1962, a 13-member Lay Advisory Committee was created. At the time, the administrator and Board of Trustees were all members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. The Sisters decided to include lay persons on the hospital's Board of Trustees in 1967.

At the same time the Sisters saw that St. Elizabeth needed more extensive administrative and financial backing than they could provide. Bishop Ackerman was approached and asked if the Diocese of Covington would accept sponsorship of the hospital. He agreed and the sponsorship remains with the Diocese today.

A major change occurred in April, 1968, when the hospital hired its first lay administrator, Earl Gilreath. Other events during the 1960s included the opening of the Social Service Department in 1962 and Northern Kentucky's first Intensive Care Unit in 1964. The Women's Guild was organized and was instrumental in the opening of Toddler Inn, a day care center for children of hospital employees. In 1968, the last class of nurses was graduated at St. Elizabeth, and a decision was made to phase out the nursing school.

1970: - The decade of the 70s saw dramatic changes at St. Elizabeth. Major renovations took place including shifting the main entrance of the hospital from 21st Street to the present 20th Street side.

The first total hip replacement operation in Northern Kentucky was successfully performed at St. Elizabeth in 1972 and the first total knee replacement was done in 1973. Also that year, the Maternity Department started permitting fathers in the delivery room. Cancer treatment in Northern Kentucky received a boost with the addition of a Cobalt 60 radiation therapy unit. The St. Elizabeth Home Health Care Agency was founded in 1973 as well as the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. In the mid-70s the Women's Guild became the Auxiliary and welcomed both male and female members.

Also in 1973, 260 acres was purchased in Edgewood for a future second hospital and a new identity logo was adopted. In 1974, Paul Bellendorf was hired as Chief Administrator of St. Elizabeth and ground was broken for the Family Practice Center. A new parking garage was opened at the Covington hospital in 1975 and in December of that year ground was broken for a new hospital in Edgewood.

St. Elizabeth Hospital officially became St. Elizabeth Healthcare, North and South Units, in 1977. And in September, 1978 the South Unit opened with 182 beds and 687 employees.

1980: - The first CT scanner in Northern Kentucky was installed at the North Unit in Covington.1980 - The first CT (CAT) Scanner was installed at the North Unit. 1981 - Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory service began at the South Unit in January. A second lab was installed in June 1988. 1984 - Northern Kentucky’s first open heart surgery program was started at the South in December. 1985 - Both a 3-story medical office building and a multi-level parking garage opened adjacent to the South Unit. 1986 - Maternity and Pediatric Departments relocated to South.

Mr. Joseph Gross was hired as President and Chief Executive Officer of the medical center. By 1986, the 125th Anniversary of St. Elizabeth, 23,000 inpatients and 70,000 outpatients were treated a year. Employees numbered over 2,000, the Medical-Dental Staff 350, and the Auxiliary 650 members who volunteered over 70,000 hours annually.

1987: - An off-site Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Center opened in Edgewood. 1988 - A Sleep Disorders Center was started at the North. 1989 - The second Doctors Building was completed at the South.

Cardiac Surgery Recovery expanded and the 1400th open heart surgery was performed. A $4 million renovation of the North Unit was completed.

1990: - Outreach and Excellence Hallmarks of the 90's The St. Elizabeth Foundation formed in 1991, blessed with 100 plus community leaders, raised $7.9 million through the decade, including $1.6 million given by St. Elizabeth employees. St. E Volunteers and Ambassadors donated 750,000 hours to the medical center.

St. Elizabeth Grant County joined the organization in 1993, serving the fast-growing Williamstown, Kentucky area.

At St. Elizabeth North, The Bishop William Hughes Pavilion, a skilled nursing facility, was dedicated in 1996.

St. Elizabeth South, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 1998, added an ambulatory care wing, Behavioral Health Center, Business Health Center and many other outpatient services.

The 1990s brought St. E prestigious recognition as one of the nation's Top 100 Hospitals and in receiving the top score among large Ohio and Kentucky hospitals in a study by a major insurer.

The Wall Street Journal featured the open heart surgery program and a separate national study ranked the quality of cardiac services among the top 3% in the U.S.

UNICEF designated The Family Birth Place as the nation's 20th "Baby-Friendly" Hospital for support of breastfeeding.

St. Elizabeth formed Summit Medical Group as a subsidiary of primary care physicians.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare entered the new millennium as one of the tri-state's premier healthcare leaders, committed to a mission of service unchanged for 139 years.

2000: - Opened new SEMC Diagnostic Center in Union

Grand opening for expanded and renovated Esther Marie Hatton Cancer Care Center

New Nurse Navigator assists women with breast cancer

Summit Medical Group grows to 40 physicians, 14 sites

Opened MRI center in Alexandria with St. Luke

Implemented employee Gainshare program to share proceeds from remarkable financial turnaround

Ranked 1st in Greater Cincinnati on Anthem scorecard; heart program named among top in nation in two separate studies; finished at top in CHP Quality Awards

2001: - Named among just 5 U.S. hospitals as "Destination for Nursing" hospital signifying reputation as outstanding place for nurses to work and excellence in patient care

Ranked #1 provider on Anthem scorecard in Kentucky

Cardiac program identified as #1 in 3 states by HealthGrades, and among top 100 in country by Solucient

First gainsharing checks 'reward' employees for helping keep SEMC squarely 'in the black'

Summit continues to grow, adding 17 primary care doctors

St. E - Grant Co. major expansion project nearly triples size of ER, adds new lobby and more treatment areas

Wound Care Center and Palliative Care services open

Commitment to SEMC mission remains priority, with 2001 community benefit report showing nearly $23,500 million in services & free care provided to community

2002:Designed and began construction on a new Outpatient Surgery Center near the South Unit

Completed design of major South expansion project to add 300,000 sq. feet

Chosen as one of the 10 Best Places in the USA to have a baby

Rated in Top 5% in US for cardiac cared by HealthGrades; 10,000th open heart surgery

Developed Care Management Program to serve elderly patients at home

Behavioral Health Senior Adult Program opens

New Summit office built in Hebron

2003: Gained 3 year JCAHO accreditation, scoring an outstanding 96% out of possible 100, highest score ever achieved by St. Elizabeth

Celebrated South 25th anniversary

Among first in US recognized Distinguished Hospital for both service and clinical excellence by J.D. Power and Associates and HealthGrades, Inc.

US News & World Report rankings of America's Best Hospitals lists St. Elizabeth among 50 best

Scored 100% on Anthem quality study

First hospital in an 8-state region to win two national awards for Healthy Environment

Did 2nd artificial cornea transplant in US

2004: Completed 300,000 sq. ft., 8-story tower on South campus, expanding in Phase I Emergency Department, cardiology and orthopedics

Began outpatient surgery in new, freestanding center on South campus

Opened new Breast Health Center at South

In Crestview Hills, opened with Children's Hospital ambulatory care facility for pediatric patients

In a physician satisfaction survey by Professional Research Corporation, St. Elizabeth ranked in top 6.6% of all US hospitals

Implemented on-site RN to BSN program with Mt. St. Joseph and developed partnership with Gateway Community College for Associate Degree in Nursing program

St. Elizabeth named one of 3 finalists in Business Courier's "Best Places to Work" competition

Implemented Neuroscience Center of Excellence with dedicated nursing unit, staff education, and stroke protocols

US News & World Report lists Respiratory and Neurology/Neurosurgery among best in US
The Nursing Executive Center/Advisory Board of Washington D.C. selected St. Elizabeth as one of the five best examples of hospitals that have created outstanding work environments for nurses. You will work in an environment where you will be appreciated and opinions are respected. St. Elizabeth Healthcare is located in Northern Kentucky. Our three hospitals are just minutes from Cincinnati, Ohio. St. Elizabeth is financially stong and getting stronger, evidenced by our continued growth of facilities and programs. Our salaries and benefits are very competitive. We have one of the highest average salaries for nurses in the area
St. Elizabeth Health Partners, a Catholic healthcare system sponsored by the Diocese of Covington, extends the healing ministry of Jesus by offering quality healthcare and wellness services throughout the continuum of care for all people in the tri-state area, especially those in Northern Kentucky.
Comprehensive Services:

The Medical Center is known for its progressive diagnostic and treatment services that have enabled St. Elizabeth to become a care leader in the area. Some services/programs include:
  • Ambulatory Services
  • Arthroscopic, Laparoscopic & Laser Surgical
  • Procedures
  • Asthma Education Center
  • Audiology
  • Blood Bank
  • Breast Center
  • Business Health Services
  • Cancer Care Center
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Cardiac Risk Screening
  • Childbirth Education
  • Child Day Care Center
  • Clinical Psychology Services
  • Community Health Education
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Counseling Services
  • CT Scanner
  • Dental Services
  • Dexa Testing for Osteoporosis
  • Diabetes Management-Specialized (Inpatient &
  • Outpatient Treatment)
  • Diagnostic Radioisotope Facility
  • Dialysis, Inpatient/ Outpatient & Inpatient
  • Peritoneal
  • Electrocardiography (EKG)
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Emergency Department
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Endoscopy
  • Exercise/Stress Testing
  • Family Practice Center
  • Geriatric Psychiatry Unit
  • Hand Therapy Center
  • Home Health Agency
  • Home IV Therapy
  • Hospice Inpatient & Home Care
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Intensive Care Units Medical & Surgical)
  • Laboratory
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Offsite)
  • Mammography (including mobile unit)
  • Massage Therapy
  • Neurosurgery
  • Newborn Special Care Unit
  • Non-Emergency Transport Services (TransCare)
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Observation (23-hour) Units
  • Obstetrics
  • Obstetrics Residency Affiliation
  • Occupational Therapy Services
  • On-Site Physician Office Building
  • Open Heart Surgery Program
  • Orthopedic Services
  • Outpatient/Same Day Services
  • Paramedic Services
  • Parish Nursing/Health Ministry
  • Pastoral Care
  • Pediatric Inpatient
  • Pediatric Services
  • Pediatric Sub-Specialty Clinics
  • Prenatal Services
  • Private Duty Nursing
  • Psychiatric Inpatient Unit
  • Pulmonary Function Testing
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
  • Residency Programs & Family Practice
  • Respiratory Therapy Services
  • Respite Care
  • Senior Membership Program - PrimeWise
  • Skilled/Extended Care Unit
  • Sleep Disorders Center
  • Speakers' Bureau
  • Speech Pathology
  • Sports Medicine Center
  • Stereotactic Breast Biopsy
  • Support Groups
  • Ultrasound
  • Vascular Laboratory
  • Volunteer Services
  • Weight Control Programs
  • Women’s Outpatient Center
  • Work Rehabilitation Services
  • Wound Care Center
  • X - Ray/Radiology