This week, Carondelet Health Network celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital. The hospital, which has tripled in size over the last five decades, first accepted patients on Tuesday, July 12, 1961. The first surgeries and first births occurred a day later on Wednesday, July 13, considered the hospital’s official first day of operation.

St. Joseph’s Hospital was built by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, whose order had settled in Tucson 91 years earlier. First invited here in 1870 by Bishop Salpointe to serve as teachers, they were asked in 1880 to open and operate St. Mary’s Hospital.

Some eight decades later, the Sisters dedicated Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital in May 1961 and opened for business in July of that year. A little history is provided below:

In 1956, it was clear that Tucson needed more hospital beds to care for the city’s growing population. The founding order of St. Mary’s Hospital, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was approached about the idea of building a hospital on Tucson’s east side. After months of discernment, the Sisters announced their plans to build what they anticipated would become a 450-bed hospital on 96 acres along Wilmot Road. The first wing of the new hospital would open in 1961, at a cost of $3 million, and include 130 beds.

Groundbreaking took place on June 3, 1959. The building of Carondelet St. Joseph’s faced its share of challenges, including a local construction strike followed by a national steel strike. However, once the steel strike ended, construction moved forward at the greatest possible speed and the official opening was delayed no more than one month from the original plan.

At its opening in 1961, St. Joseph’s was considered one of the nation’s premiere facilities because it was built on an intricate system of central dispatching, including pneumatic tubes, dumb waiters and elevators, and designed to provide the most efficient flow of supplies to patients on every floor.

St. Joseph’s was dedicated on May 1, 1961, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. At the dedication, Arizona Governor Paul Fannin said, “This wonderful facility for the service of humanity is an accomplishment in which all Arizona can take pride.”

Today, Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital is a state-of-the-art campus, providing acute, secondary and tertiary care in many specialties with special emphasis on robotics, plastic surgery, neurosciences, labor and delivery, and neonatal care.

The hospital has expanded dramatically since 1961. What was then a 130-bed facility is now a 471-bed campus, with 2,135 associates, 460 physicians and an additional 84 allied health professionals caring for Tucsonans and residents throughout Southern Arizona (according to FY2010 data). The campus houses a Regional Eye Center, ADA-certified Diabetes Care Center, nationally-certified cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, Women’s Care Center, Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and O’Reilly Care Center for Behavioral Health.

The campus is also home to Carondelet Neurological Institute, opened in 2008. This 54-bed comprehensive facility for the treatment of brain and spinal cord illnesses and injuries was a first of its kind in Southern Arizona. It was established to eliminate the need for patients and families to travel long distances for care when faced with such critical issues as strokes, aneurysms and tumors. The Institute provides patients with the latest, minimally invasive treatment options for spine surgery, brain surgery, cancer and tumor treatment, neurological diseases, as well as inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation options.

Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital has grown to become one of Southern Arizona’s busiest. In FY2010 (July 2009-June 2010), the hospital cared for 62,160 visitors in its emergency department; recorded 20,845 discharges; 73,742 outpatient visits; 5,507 inpatient surgeries; and 11,582 outpatient surgeries.

About Carondelet Health Network
Located in Tucson, Arizona, Carondelet Health Network is a Catholic, nonprofit healthcare system dedicated to responding to the healthcare needs of Southern Arizonans. With a Mission to Heal, Carondelet was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet 130 years ago. Carondelet Health Network facilities include St. Mary's Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute and Carondelet Neurological Institute on the campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, Arizona. Other Carondelet services include nearly 20 Carondelet Medical Group primary care locations and Carondelet Specialist Group specialty care practices, an ambulatory surgery center, several outpatient imaging centers, Carondelet Hospice & Palliative Care and Carondelet Foundation. Carondelet Health Network is a ministry of Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic, non-profit health care system. In Fiscal Year 2010, Carondelet provided nearly $50 million (8.3 percent of its net revenue) in Community Benefit to improve community health and increase access. More information about Carondelet Health Network is available at www.carondelet.org.