Methodist Hospital celebrates 50th anniversary

Methodist50thLOGOMethodist Hospital celebrated its 50th anniversary with ceremonies honoring its employees, physicians and volunteers while community leaders recognized the pioneering role the hospital has played in the development of the South Texas Medical Center.

Methodist Hospital was chartered in 1955 as an independent hospital. The hospital began with 175 beds and 272 employees and has grown to 882 beds and more than 3,500 employees.

In 1995, it became the flagship facility of the Methodist Healthcare System. Today Methodist Healthcare is the largest provider of health care in South and Central Texas with 26 facilities including nine hospitals serving 90,000 inpatients and 390,000 outpatients annually.

During the ceremony, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recalled the origins of the hospital in 1954 when business strategists led by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the Bexar County Medical Society learned the city was lacking in hospital beds and would not be able to handle a mass casualty situation or epidemic.  The Southwest Conference of the Methodist Church was approached to administer the hospital with ties to the church and an agreement was reached in 1955.

Within five years, land was donated and enough money was secured through donations and government grants to build a hospital using civil defense guidelines.  The hospital received national attention as the world’s first nuclear disaster-proof hospital with two floors underground to be used as a fallout shelter.

“It was important to these visionaries to find land for not just a single hospital, but for an entire medical complex,” said Judge Wolff.  “Our community will forever be indebted to the vision and bravery demonstrated by these individuals who stepped out in faith to build a thriving and successful medical complex.”  Today the biomedical field is the city’s leading employer and economic driver.  One of every five San Antonio employees works in the bioscience and health care industry.

“I’m in awe of the legacy of those leaders who came before me, those who had a vision for a Methodist hospital surrounded by enough land for development of a thriving medical center,” said Jaime Wesolowski, president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare System.

“We saw the visionary spirit again 20 years ago when leaders of the hospital decided that in the rapidly changing health care landscape, a single hospital might not fare very well,” continued Wesolowski.  “As a result, when Methodist Hospital became part of the Methodist Healthcare system, a family of hospitals was born, co-owned by HCA and a newly founded non-profit, Methodist Healthcare Ministries.  The Ministries shares our mission of Serving Humanity to Honor God. Receiving half the profits of MHS, Methodist Healthcare Ministries has become the largest non-profit source for community health care in San Antonio and South Texas directed to low income, under served clients ineligible for any medical assistance program.”  The Ministries contributed $72 million to providing 800,000 client encounters in 2012.

During the ceremonies, the longest tenured employees were introduced along with pioneering physicians and long-time members of the Blue Bird volunteer auxiliary.  These employees were Ian Shawcross, 46 years of service; Nancy Burrell, R.N., 43 years, Norbert Cantu, 43 years, Janie Ochoa, 42 years, and Oralia Martinez, 42 years. Also recognized were James Pridgen, M.D., who performed the first surgery at the hospital.  Charter members of the Blue Bird auxiliary receiving recognition were Karen Paterson, Connie Benson, Maxine Haas and Barbara Ringen. All have been serving since 1963 and remain active today.

Hospital officials also opened a time capsule buried in 1988, the hospital’s 25th anniversary.  After the ceremony, the hospital honored physicians, staff and volunteers at a luncheon that featured memorabilia from the time capsule, hospital archives, and a cake designed as a replica of the original hospital building.

Archived footage of the ceremony can be viewed on and on the Methodist Healthcare YouTube channel: SAHealth210.