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History of St. Anthony's Medical Center

St. Anthony's volunteers, Delphine Holleman and Irma Briggs, recall unforgettable experiences at both the old and new hospital.

Legacy of the Franciscan Sisters

St. Anthony's long tradition of faith-based, Catholic service to the St. Louis area began in 1873, when the Franciscan Sisters of Germany opened St. Boniface Hospital in south St. Louis. It was succeeded by Pius Hospital in north St. Louis and “little St. Anthony’s” in south St. Louis.

Original St. Anthony's Hospital at Grand Boulevard and Chippewa Street

In 1900, the sisters opened the 100-bed St. Anthony’s Hospital at Grand Boulevard and Chippewa Street. It was named after St. Anthony of Padua, who patterned his life and healing ministry after the example set by Jesus Christ. The four-story hospital featured electric elevators and a bell system that connected each room to the main office to summon doctors and attendants. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called it “one of the most elaborate hospital buildings in this country.

“Within twenty-five years, the patient nuns have accomplished more than the whole municipality,” the Post reported.

During St. Anthony’s first full year, 395 patients were treated by 64 doctors. Patients paid from $5 to $15 per week for room, board and nursing.

Serving the community

As the community grew, so did St. Anthony’s Hospital. The Franciscan Sisters expanded the facility with new wings in 1904 and 1928, and established St. Anthony’s as a leading health care provider both nationally and locally:

  • During the great influenza epidemic in 1920, St. Anthony’s was among only four of 15 private hospitals in St. Louis that opened its doors to influenza patients.
  • During World War II, a volunteer “Surgical Dressing Unit” of 600 volunteers packaged bandages for wounded soldiers overseas.
  • After St. Louis’ first polio epidemic struck in the summer of 1946, St. Anthony’s gained national recognition as the Midwest’s primary treatment center for polio victims. From 1949 until the mid-1950s, when a preventative vaccine was developed, St. Anthony’s doctors and staff treated more than 100 polio patients each day.
  • In 1957, St. Anthony's became one of the first hospitals in the area to offer cobalt cancer treatment. That same year, it also opened its doors to treat alcoholics in need of detoxification, and is believed to be the first general hospital in St. Louis to do so.
Cobalt equipment 1957

St. Anthony’s counted among its dedicated Franciscan Sisters Mary Pulcheria Wuellner, R.N., who used pioneering polio treatments at St. Anthony’s and lectured on polio care at hospitals across the Midwest during the 1950s. A tireless advocate for children, Sister Pulcheria also designed one of the first reasonably priced baby incubators, founded what may have been the first human breast milk bank in the nation, and invented the Four-in-One Bed for child patients, which combined safety and ease of care with sanitary storage.

A new direction

In 1967, the Franciscan Sisters transferred ownership and control of the hospital to a board of community leaders, making St. Anthony's the first Catholic hospital in the St. Louis area to be administered by a lay board. Following this transition, plans were made to relocate the hospital to south St. Louis County.

In 1975, St. Anthony's Medical Center opened at its present location and remains the only hospital located in south St. Louis County. Over the years, St. Anthony’s has changed and grown to meet community needs.

Pioneering paramedic service

In 1976, St. Anthony’s sponsored the first-ever Mobile Intensive/Coronary Care Unit (MICCU) in the St. Louis area, the forerunner of the modern paramedic system. The first “life support” ambulance was dedicated through a cooperative venture between St. Anthony’s and the Concord Village Lions Club (at the time, many ambulances were converted hearses). Leroy Ortmeyer, M.D., then the director of St. Anthony’s Department of Medicine, trained technicians with the Mehlville Fire District to staff the vehicle.

In 1977, Hyland Behavioral Health was established to provide inpatient and outpatient care for children, teens and adults coping with depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses, drug addiction, eating disorders and dual diagnoses.

Training tomorrow’s leaders

Medical Explorer Post

In 1980, St. Anthony’s Medical Explorer Scout Post 9152 was established for youth interested in health care careers. The troop, hosted by two St. Anthony’s nurses, remains active today and has encouraged many talented young people to pursue medical careers.

In the early 1980s, St. Anthony’s recruited many primary care and specialty care physicians to south St. Louis County to meet the needs of growing communities close to home. It also expanded its facilities to accommodate 215 more beds, and doubled the size of the Emergency Department.

In 1994, St. Anthony’s Medical Plaza opened across the street from the medical center. The plaza is home to St. Anthony’s Breast Center, the Wound Treatment Center, Senior Services and several primary care and specialty care physician offices.

Outstanding care

In 1999, St. Anthony’s received a Top 100 Hospital designation from the Healthcare Industry Association (HCIA) for orthopedic surgery – total knee replacement.

That same year, the Fern & Russell F. de Greeff Hospice House opened on a quiet, tree-lined portion of St. Anthony’s campus. This special house, the only one of its kind in St. Louis, provides premier end-of-life care to patients, including those who have no one else to care for them during the last part of their lives.

In 2000, cancer services were centralized and expanded with the opening of the Cancer Care Center.

In 2004, St. Anthony’s received the Cardiac Center of Excellence designation from United Healthcare, the largest health plan in St. Louis. Also in 2004, St. Anthony’s was designated one of the “Best Places to Work” by the St. Louis Business Journal.

In spring 2005, St. Anthony’s was named a Solucient Top 100 performance improvement leader among U.S. hospitals. This designation was based on a thorough evaluation of 2,592 hospitals’ outcomes in quality, financial, operations and growth performance indicators.

Also in 2005, St. Anthony’s became the first hospital in St. Louis to receive Accredited Chest Pain Center designation by the Society of Chest Pain Centers.

The latest technologies

Surgical Suite in 2008

In 2008, St. Anthony’s completed a $90-million hospital redesign and construction project that included a new, state-of-the-art John K. Pruellage Heart & Vascular Center in a four-story hospital building adjacent to the current facility, a separate pediatric emergency department, and renovations providing all-private acute care patient rooms throughout the medical center.

The Pruellage Center centralizes outpatient access to leading cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and vascular surgeons in the St. Louis area, providing a comprehensive range of cardiac and peripheral vascular diagnostic tests and treatment procedures in a four-story surgery and patient-care tower that includes 64 private patient rooms, a 16-bed Surgical Intensive Care Unit, 10 state-of-the-art surgery suites and 34 same-day surgery rooms.

In 2009, St. Anthony’s Medical Center, the leading hospital in the St. Louis area for hip and knee replacements, opened its new Ortho-Spine Center. A “horizontal hospital within a hospital,” the Ortho-Spine Center includes 62 all-private patient rooms, specifically designed to care for post-operative orthopedic patients.

In 2011, St. Anthony’s Wound Treatment Center installed two state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chambers. This therapy delivers pressurized oxygen that decreases the swelling and inflammation of wounds, promotes the development of new blood vessels and improves the rate of healing.

Best cardiac therapies

In 2011, St. Anthony’s earned Cycle 3 Chest Pain Center Accreditation with PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention). More commonly known as angioplasty, PCI is a procedure that helps to open narrowed arteries in the heart either with balloon angioplasty or stents.

Also that year, St. Anthony’s Heart Specialty Center was formed through a unique partnership between the medical center and The Heart Specialty Associates, a practice that includes 13 of the area’s top cardiologists. It offers a seamless continuum of care for cardiac patients: inpatient and outpatient, medical and surgical, prevention through rehabilitation:

  • four Cardiac Catheterization labs
  • three Interventional Radiology suites
  • two electrophysiology labs
  • one endovascular operating room
  • the only heart failure program in the St. Louis area

St. Anthony’s is one of only 30 medical centers in the nation selected recently to take part in a study of a device designed to prevent blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation.

The tradition continues

The leaders, physicians and employees who serve St. Anthony’s patients proudly continue the tradition of caring that began with the Franciscan Sisters in 1873.

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For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.

Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well­ being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.