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Wheeling Hospital - History

The first Wheeling Hospital, incorporated in March 1850, was located behind the convent and academy of the Visitation Nuns at 14th and Eoff streets. The convent later became the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Patients paid 97 cents a day for ward accommodations at the new hospital, which was the first medical care facility along a 410-mile stretch of the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Paid nurses were on duty, as were hospital co-founders Dr. Simon Hullihen, Dr. John Frissell and Dr. M.M. Houston.

Records indicate Wheeling Hospital operated at a net loss of $101.61 during its second year. Receipts totaled $2,407.73 and expenses were $2,509.34.

Bishop Richard V. Whelan, the hospital's other co-founder, brought the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Louis to care for hospital patients in 1853, when the institution twice moved to larger quarters: first to the Zane residence on Chapline Street then to the Metcalf property on 15th Street. During the first year in its new location, Wheeling Hospital admitted 153 patients.

The care of orphans was added to the Sisters of St. Joseph responsibilities in 1853 and it became necessary in 1856 to move Wheeling Hospital to the former Michael Sweeney mansion on the banks of the Ohio River in North Wheeling. Bed capacity was increased from 30 to 50.

Virginia seceded from the Union in early 1861, but 56 western Virginia delegates met in Wheeling and declared independence from Virginia, leading to the creation of West Virginia. During the Civil War, naval riverboats delivered wounded to a dock constructed below the hospital. When the river was at a low stage, a wooden ladder was extended to the shore.

Civil War wounded from both the Union and Confederacy crowded the hospital. The federal government took over the facility as a "post hospital" in April 1864 and the Sisters became army nurses. To make room for the wounded, the orphans were moved to a house on Wheeling Island and the Sisters gave up their cots. In August of that year, the entire hospital was taken over as a U.S. Army General Hospital. It continued with that designation until early 1865 when the number of wounded soldiers dwindled and it reverted back to "post hospital."

In 1871, the hospital was designated a Marine Hospital, a designation which remained in place until the early 20th century.

By 1892, following additions to the former Sweeney mansion, Wheeling Hospital had 90 beds. In 1900 the Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing was established.

Under Bishop Patrick J. Donahue, the first addition was made to Wheeling Hospital in 1903. The $50,000 North Wing provided 35 more beds. Patients had the opportunity for scenic relaxation and fresh air on the hospital's new porches facing the river. Completion of the new South Wing in 1914 took the bed total to 200.

In 1928, Wheeling residents were asked for the first time to contribute to a campaign to expand Wheeling Hospital. The hospital trustees sought $350,000 for a new Center Wing. The public responded by contributing more than $500,000. The hospital's center building - the last trace of the Sweeney mansion - was razed and a new structure built. It contained patient rooms, a modern operating suite, X-Ray Department, delivery units and other facilities. The new bed capacity was 230.

In 1947, Wheeling Hospital built a new School of Nursing. In 1948, a department specializing in physical therapy was opened and two years later Wheeling Hospital began its Outpatient Department.

In July 1960, the hospital launched a $1.5 million Center Wing expansion campaign aided by a matching federal grant under the Hill Burton Program. Including six floors and a basement level, the addition provided a modern kitchen, new central service department, 41 more beds, new maternity/labor/delivery facilities, expanded and renovated operating and recovery rooms. The expansion was completed in 1962.

Wheeling Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, established in 1963, and the Coronary Care Unit, initiated in 1966, were the first such facilities in West Virginia. In 1965, the emergency room was tripled in size to include waiting room facilities, observation areas and an emergency suite to handle all types of major and minor cases. In 1967, the hospital opened its new orthopedic section. That construction eliminated the last of the 12-bed wards. Now there were a maximum of four beds per room.

The new Maternity Department opened in 1968, as did the expanded admission and diagnostic unit for outpatients. The modern laboratory also was begun in 1968. In addition to its School of Nursing, Wheeling Hospital established schools for X-ray technicians, lab assistants and nurse anesthetists, and initiated the area's first externship program to provide summer training for medical students.

In the late 1960s, the hospital opened a new department specializing in treating breathing diseases and disorders, and in the early 1970s a new X-Ray Department was installed. By 1970, the hospital's staff numbered 425 full- and part-time employees.

By 1975, Wheeling Hospital's directors and administrators accepted the recommendations of consultants who said a new hospital was needed because of the limitations on the North Wheeling facility's physical plant and site. The board of directors acquired a 212-acre site of undeveloped land next to Interstate 70 in Wheeling's Oak Park-Clator area. Extension of Mount de Chantal Road provided access from the interstate at Washington Avenue.

Once again, the hospital turned to the public for help. While consultants who looked at the hospital's service area predicted a fund drive would net $600,000, Wheeling residents came through with an astounding $6 million. Grading and preparation for the site began in January 1968 and on Oct. 23, 1972, ground was broken for the new $25 million hospital.

The new Wheeling Hospital was dedicated on Sunday, June 1, 1975. Patients were moved in on June 21 after months of extensive planning and preparation.

A little over one month later, a massive cloudburst hit the area, flooding the lower level and forcing the evacuation of more than 200 patients. Wheeling Hospital employees and volunteers pitched in for the flood cleanup, quite a formidable task.

In 1981, the new Pulmonary Laboratory opened and the Pastoral Care Department was expanded. Ground was broken in 1982 for the new $3.6 million Bishop Joseph Hodges Continuous Care Center and Kidney Dialysis Center. Opened the following year, the facility enabled Wheeling Hospital to transfer those units from North Wheeling.

Wheeling Hospital moved into the laser era in 1986 with laser procedures involving neurosurgery. Also that year, the hospital began a $9.4 million expansion of its Outpatient Center.

Additional divisions of Wheeling Hospital include the Wheeling Clinic and the Wellsburg Clinic. The Wheeling Clinic, on 16th Street, is a centrally located medical arts facility that offers outpatient medical care in a variety of physician specialties. The Wellsburg Clinic, located at 1423 Commerce St., offers quality outpatient medical care to residents of Brooke, Jefferson, Hancock and Washington counties.

During the 1990s, Wheeling Hospital introduced Centers of Excellence, areas of service that allow patients to receive state-of-the-art medical care close to home. These include: the Schiffler Cancer Center, the Cardiac Surgery Center, the Women's Health Center, the 55,000-square-foot Howard Long Wellness Center and the Emergency Trauma Center.

In addition, the hospital in 2012 opened Tower 5, a seven-story, state-of-the-art facility that features a new 23,000-square-foot Emergency/Trauma Center, a Center for Pediatrics, private patient rooms, as well as cardiovascular, surgical and medical intensive care units.

Wheeling Hospital in 1853

Wheeling Hospital in 1853

The first Wheeling Hospital was incorporated in March 1850 and owes its origin to the shared vision of Dr. Simon P. Hullihen, a Wheeling physician, and the Right Rev. Richard Vincent Whelan, the first Bishop of the newly-established Catholic Diocese of Wheeling. The new hospital was the first medical care facility along a 410-mile stretch of the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.