Celebrating our past, looking to the futurePublished: May 25, 2016
It all began here – at 20th & Harney, when the Methodist Episcopal Hospital and Deaconess Home opened in a three-story house on May 28, 1891.
The average daily cost of care was $1 and the average length of stay was 14 days. The mission at that time was simple - serve the people of Omaha regardless of religion, race, gender or ability to pay.
Now, 125 years later, Methodist celebrates its humble beginning, while continuing to build upon the legacy established by leaders and medical providers through our long history in the Omaha community.
“Our founders would be proud of what their vision for health care has become,” said John Fraser, president and CEO of Methodist Health System. “They would be pleased that our 6,000-plus employees continue to provide compassionate care to the community, through medical excellence and 21st century technology.”
Today, the Meaning of Care spans three hospitals, more than 22 clinics, a surgery center that performs more surgical procedures than anyone in the region and a women’s hospital that has become the regional leader in births.
Patients admitted at any hour of day or night
The 28-bed hospital on 20th & Harney reached capacity fairly quickly and the rules for operation were fairly clear. According to “A Century of Medical Miracles” a book written on the history of Methodist, rules were posted in a conspicuous place in the reception area.
Some of those early guidelines for care: patients suffering from severe accidents shall be admitted at any hour of the day or night and the number of patients shall at no time exceed the number which can be properly cared for by the regular nursing staff.
Space and demand for care caused hospital leadership to look for a new location in the Omaha community for a new facility. In 1900, the board voted to build a new hospital at 36th & Cuming at a cost of $80,000.
It would be 1908, after several construction delays, before the “truly magnificent structure” at 36th & Cuming would become the second location of Methodist Hospital.
A truly magnificent structure
The new, five-story hospital was a jewel to the nursing staff for one major reason – it had an elevator.
Martha DuBois, a graduate of the nursing class in 1909, spent two years in the old hospital. Her senior year she was among those enamored with the elevator.
“I was an immigrant from Sweden and I was big and strong,” said DuBois, who was quoted in A Century of Medical Miracles. “We had to carry the patients, and because of my size, I always took the heavy end of the stretcher as we went up the stairs. It seemed like I was always carrying someone up the stairs. With the new hospital, no more carrying patients up those stairs.”
The 36th & Cuming hospital was the site of many firsts, such as the first to offer a selective diet to patients, the first fully approved residency training program for pathologists, the first radioisotope laboratory, the first surgical suite with adjacent recovery room and the first to provide emergency service 24 hours a day.
Cadillac of medical facilities
Lessons learned at 36th & Cuming were combined with the latest health care and engineering innovations to build a new Methodist Hospital at 84th & Dodge. Upon completion it was described in 1968 as “the Cadillac of medical facilities in Omaha.”
The single tower hospital had nine stories, 12 ORs, 328 beds and Nebraska’s first linear accelerator.
Always at the forefront in expansion, a second tower, known as the North Tower was completed in 1981 and occupied by Children’s Hospital until they moved into their new facility in 2000.
The 84th Street Campus has continued to expand, with the addition of the Pathology Center – The Schenken Pavilion, Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center and its current $90 million surgical renovation and expansion project.
With Phase II of the surgical renovation and expansion project nearing completion this summer, the investment in space and technology will allow Methodist to continue to be the regional leader in surgeries for many years to come.
In addition to our surgical expertise, Methodist Hospital is also home to leading experts in cancer, cardiology and geriatric services. Women’s health is also a key service line, with the opening of Methodist Women’s Hospital in 2010.
Women’s services were moved to the 192 & Dodge location to allow for expanded space at 84th Street, and the west location quickly became the regional leader in births. Expansion at Methodist Women’s Hospital is already underway, with a $20 million investment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
The Level 3 NICU has become the most relied upon facility in the region and with the expansion will nearly double in size (from 28 to 51 beds), provide more family space and new life-saving technology.
“At Methodist we are tremendously proud of our heritage and the leadership which guided the organization through significant challenges through the years,” Fraser said. “But the one constant was never losing sight of the core mission of this organization. We have achieved these successes by expanding our facilities, providing the latest technology for our medical providers, putting our patients first and staying true to the beliefs and values established 125 years ago.”
To learn more about our 125th anniversary: