Our Hospital History

St. Mark's Hospital Full History

In 2002, St. Mark's Hospital celebrated its 130th birthday. There is much more to celebrate than just our age. We continue to celebrate a tradition of progress and compassion, words that have become synonymous with our hospital over the past century and a quarter.

The history of St. Mark's Hospital is one of continuous change and challenge. As Utah and the Salt Lake Valley grow, those challenges will only continue. As it has from the beginning, St. Mark's Hospital will be here to meet the healthcare needs of the people of Utah.

It was early 1872, and the pioneer settlement of Salt Lake City was booming. The railroad and mining had brought both prosperity and people to the Great Salt Lake Valley. The young city was fast becoming a regional center of commerce, industry and transportation. With 12,000 residents and growing, the city was long overdue for at least one more addition -- a hospital.

During the 1870s, medical care in the Salt Lake Valley was practically nonexistent. The existing care consisted mainly of home remedies and herb doctors. The city was completely unprepared for the medical needs of its growing population. Hundreds of workers toiling in the mines and on the railroad suffered a variety of illnesses and injuries. Lead poisoning, a frequent side effect of mining, was a significant problem for miners.

Seeing the extreme need, an ambitious and energetic Episcopal Bishop, Rev. Daniel S. Tuttle, stepped forward to address the concern. He recruited the support of his local congregation and prominent Salt Lake City businessmen. In the first few months of 1872, the hospital became more than a dream. With the funding from business loans and Bishop Tuttle's trust funds, equipment and furnishings were purchased; a building and grounds rented; and a name decided upon -- St. Mark's Hospital.

Housed in an adobe structure located at 500 East and 400 South with six beds, one physician and all-male nurses, the first hospital in the Utah Territory opened its doors on April 30th, 1872. In its first month, the new hospital admitted 21 patients, and as Bishop Tuttle wrote in his journal, "Each succeeding month has brought a larger number to us than the one preceding."

Lead poisoning was the most prevalent condition treated at the hospital, followed by appendicitis and typhoid fever. St. Mark's Hospital began what would become a century and a quarter of compassionate care, innovation and service to Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities.

For the first few years, the St. Mark's medical staff consisted of only one physician, Dr. John F. Hamilton, who worked with dedication and for no pay. Dr. Hamilton came to St. Mark's Hospital in 1870 after practicing at Fort Douglas. Of the selfless individual, Bishop Tuttle wrote, "I can honestly and sincerely assure you, that it is owing to his faithful and skillful services, as much as any one thing, that our work commands the respect and confidence of the community to the degree it does."

With the demand so great, St. Mark's Hospital was often hard pressed to serve the needs of the many patients who sought care. Miners in particular poured in for treatment, prompting a number of local mining companies to arrange with the hospital an early form of health insurance. A monthly payment of $1 entitled a miner to full medical treatment and a hospital bed. However, those patients were cared for regardless of their ability to pay. Bishop Tuttle noted, "We have, on average, taken care of two to three charity patients every month and have never refused admittance to anyone while there has been a bed at our disposal."

In the first seven years, St. Mark's hospital treated 2,308 patients, and by 1879 the small adobe building was splitting at the seams with more than 20 patients a day. Due to overcrowding, some patients had to sleep on mattresses on the floor. The pressing need to expand required the first of many moves and physical changes for the hospital. In 1879 a larger, brick building at the corner of 500 East and 300 South was purchased for $4,500, and the hospital capacity doubled to 12 beds.

The new building was adequate for only a few years. As the number of industries in the valley and workers to drive them continued to increase, so did the demands on the hospital. Inevitably, in 1893 St. Mark's was once again relocated. This time to 803 North 200 West. The impressive new brick facility cost $20,000 and boasted an operating room, drug closet and 35 beds. There were even a few private patient rooms -- a luxury at the time. The location was chosen because of its convenience to the new trolley line and a natural mineral hot spring. Mineral water therapy was the latest in medical treatment in the late 1800s.

Starting in the 1880s, St. Mark's Hospital officially served as the first Salt Lake County Hospital. Rev. Tuttle noted, "The County authorities asked to send their sick poor and paid for them out of the county revenues." This arrangement to treat Salt Lake's disadvantaged continued for over 30 years, until a County Hospital was completed in 1912.

Finding the money to operate St. Mark's Hospital was often difficult. In addition to the contract with Salt Lake County, funds came from the St. Mark's Charity Association - the first social service hospital organization in the valley. Founded six years after the hospital opened, the organization sponsored an annual charity ball and assisted the hospital by sewing and wrapping bandages.

Finding trained nurses was also difficult for St. Mark's. The need for trained nurses became critical with the new 35 bed facility, and it was almost impossible to encourage nurses from Eastern schools to come to Utah. Taking the problem into its own hands, the St. Mark's Hospital School of Nursing was founded in 1894, just 21 years after the first nurse had graduated in the United States. This was the first training school for nurses in the Intermountain Region. This tradition continues today at the St. Mark's Hospital/Westminster College School of Nursing.

The first superintendent of the school was Miss Mary Edith Newitt. She arrived on February 12, 1894, and promptly told the administration that conditions were "abominable." Soon afterward, standards changed. Instruments were sterilized in the basement kitchen and carried upstairs in hot pans. Large quantities of carbolic acid and bichloride were used as disinfectants. Surgeons did not wear masks, but tied their hair back. Cotton gloves were occasionally used on septic patients, however, in most cases gloves were not used.

In 1895, St. Mark's replaced a rickety express wagon and cot with a new horse-drawn ambulance service. Hospital Superintendent D. Douglas Wallace, proudly reported to the Board of Directors, "Our ambulance, which is the only one in the city, has been invaluable and a great boon to those unfortunate enough to meet with accidents." One hundred years later, Wallace would be proud, if not a little amazed, by St. Mark's Hospital's ability to transport patients via helicopter.

In 1908, a typhoid epidemic pushed St. Mark's Hospital beyond the breaking point. Emergency tents had to be sent up to handle the additional patients. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, typhoid with the third most common disease treated at the hospital. The nurses, though well-trained at the St. Mark's Hospital School of Nursing, were not immune. Miss Beatrice Smith, class of 1899, wrote, "Several nurses were victims of typhoid fever, and two students died. One the first week I was in training, and it cast a gloom over the whole hospital. The other was in my class and died about a year later."

St. Mark's Hospital housed what was known as the Shriners Crippled Children's Ward for 26 years, beginning January 22, 1925. The Shriners' mission was to take care of children, under the age of 14, who suffered from orthopedic conditions and whose parents could not afford to pay for surgical treatment. There was usually a waiting list of 40 - 50 children, and the beds were seldom vacant for more than 24 hours.

During the Depression, things were tough all over, including in Utah. In 1934, one out of five Utahns was receiving federal relief. Though St. Mark's Hospital was forced to close a ward, it was able to keep the doors open during the Depression years, primarily because of contract doctors - Dr. Walter Pugh, a surgeon, had the contract with the Utah Copper Co.; Dr. Robert S. Allison, an internist, had the contract with the D&RG Railroad; and Dr. Martin Lindem, a surgeon, had the contract with the Utah Coal Company. In those days, employees went to the company doctor and the company hospital.

Patriotism was always high among the physicians, nurses and staff at St. Mark's Hospital. In World War I alone, 12 nurses and one physician lost their lives. From the troop trains of World War I to the smart bombs of the Gulf War, St. Mark's Hospital has been represented.

During World War II, when there was a shortage of blood, all of the hospital employees had their blood typed. When a donor for a certain type of blood was needed, they were called upon to help the patients. Employees were given the day off, with pay, for donating a pint of blood.

In 1943, Congress passed the Bolton Act, creating the Cadet Nurse Corps to encourage nursing school enrollment. The Corps provided free tuition, fees, uniforms and a monthly stipend of $15.

More challenges faced St. Mark's in the postwar years. Before the days of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, polio was a loathsome killer of Utah's youth. Each year, the epidemic claimed the lives of over 200 Utah children. However, 1951 was the worst, more children died from polio that year than ever before. Summers became known as "polio season" and parents kept their children away from public swimming pools, thought to be a breeding ground for the virus.

St. Mark's has seen Salt Lake City through disease, as well as disasters. On November 11, 1965, a Boeing 727 crashed at Salt Lake International Airport. According to Donna Behunin Woolsey, R.N., "It was one of St. Mark's Hospital's finest hours. When hospital employees and volunteers heard about the crash, they just came to the hospital. There was just such commitment and dedication. No one had to be called."

One ward of the hospital was evacuated to make room for all of the casualties. So many people came to work that there was a team for each patient - physician, nurse, auxiliary and technician. Sadly, one of the physicians who came to work found that his brother had been killed in the crash.

Changing to Meet the Community's Needs

In the 1960s, it was determined that St. Mark's Hospital was no longer in adequate condition to house patients. Yet another move was needed. By this time, North Salt Lake had evolved. Neighborhoods had been replaced by industrial parks, and the railroad tracks crowded the 5.6 acre hospital campus. There wasn't anywhere to grow. As residential neighborhoods moved southward, people had to travel too far to find medical care.

In response, a site further south was planned for the hospital. It would have 19 acres on which to build and accommodate future expansion. Construction of the new hospital began April 30, 1970, and was completed in May of 1973. On a sunny Sunday morning, with ambulances transporting patients every five minutes, the entire patient population of the old hospital was moved into the new state-of-the-art facility.

The new building was a one-of-a-kind triangle design, a model of efficiency and patient friendly accessibility. The architects received many awards for the design which was featured in several architectural magazines. The triangle shape was chosen to allow future enlargement of the building. And enlarged it has been. St. Mark's has undergone countless additions and improvements since 1973.

The Bloomquist family has seen the hospital through many of these changes. The late Harley Bloomquist retired from plant operations after 45 years of service, and his son, Mike, is at the helm today. Mike has overseen the construction of two new office buildings; additions of Cardiac Catheterization Labs and the Diabetes Center; expansion of the Emergency Department, the Women's Center and Labor and Delivery; the building of a new parking structure; and the building of a new west wing which is expected to open in the year 2001.

The Next 130 Years

Today, the Women's Health Center at St. Mark's Hospital offers a wide range of services, from the simplest exams to the latest in breast care.

In 1991, the St. Mark's Women's Health Center created the Center for Breast Care, headed by Dr. Hugh Hogle, one of the state's leading breast surgeons. Literally thousands of Utah women have credited their lives to his work. Today, the center performs nearly 1,000 mammograms a month.

The St. Mark's Women's Health Center has come a long way since 1900. As we pass through the year 2000, the emphasis is on services for the busy woman. One-stop-shopping provides a woman with a mammogram, clinical breast exam, bone density screening, comprehensive blood work-up, physical exam, Pap smear and health education - all within two hours.

More than services have changed in the past 127 years. St. Mark's Hospital now has a new owner. In 1988, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah sold St. Mark's Hospital to the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). In February, 1994, HCA merged with Columbia to form Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation. Columbia/HCA changed its name in 2000 to "HCA - The Healthcare Company". HCA is the current owner. By being part of a national and international network of nearly 300 hospitals, St. Mark's Hospital is able to offer the highest quality of healthcare to its patients.

Today, the hospital provides the latest imaging techniques; surgical suites; medical and radiation oncology; emergency medicine; open heart surgery; diagnostics and rehabilitation; and minimally invasive surgical techniques.

The history of St. Mark's Hospital is a history of change and a story of individuals. Noteworthy people, such as Rev. Tuttle and our first physician, Dr. Hamilton, are only part of the story. Today, over 1,400 hospital employees and volunteers work closely with over 1,000 active and courtesy physicians. This group continues the commitment to improve patient care and satisfaction and to tailor services to meet our customers' needs. St. Mark's is still changing, still growing and still adding services to provide the community with a comprehensive continuum of care.