It was 1916, and Pasco needed a hospital.
Health care in the young community — it’d only incorporated about 25 years before — was pretty bare bones.
“Medical services were available in an old residence on the corner of Ninth and Columbia — three beds with the surgery in the kitchen,” a written history said.
Six nuns who were part of the Sisters of St. Joseph came to help, arriving by train from Lewiston, Idaho, on Sept. 8.
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Community members had a hospital site picked out: the small Montana Hotel, leased from Mr. and Mrs. John Crotty.
A fundraising drive brought in $800, with local physicians giving $500 in equipment from their own stashes.
“In just 16 days, with the help of hard-working Pasco housewives, the sisters scrubbed the hotel, set up beds (and) gathered meager equipment and furnishings, preparing for the opening of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital,” the history said.
On Sept. 24, 1916, Lourdes officially swung open its doors.
It was the only hospital for miles, serving patients from Pasco, Kennewick and surrounding towns — more than 600 in its first year, and many thousands more over the next century.
“Lourdes was here before the bridges were here,” said Denise Clapp, chief nursing officer for what’s now Lourdes Health Network. “That says a lot about this organization’s place in the community.”
In just 16 days, with the help of hard-working Pasco housewives, the sisters scrubbed the hotel, set up beds (and) gathered meager equipment and furnishings, preparing for the opening of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
Lourdes Medical Center historical account
Lourdes is marking its 100th anniversary with a celebratory mass at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 at St. Patrick Catholic Parish in Pasco. A reception follows at 11:30 a.m.
The Lourdes Legacy Gala starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Pasco Red Lion, with a social hour at 5:30 p.m.
On Oct. 8, a free family picnic is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Volunteer Park.
Leaders of the Pasco hospital said Lourdes has a special place in the community’s history, and it’s poised for a bright future.
“To me, it’s a continuum,” said John Serle, chief executive officer. “Because of what happened (in the past), we have a strong foundation and heritage to move forward in a very confident and positive way.”
Sister Esther Polacci, vice president of mission for Lourdes, added that, “I’m so grateful to God that He has guided us through those 100 years and given us the ability to care for so many thousands of people, bringing them to help. My heart is full of gratitude, and it’s also full of hope for the next century.”
When Lourdes opened in the former hotel in 1916, it had 15 beds.
The six Sisters of St. Joseph — later the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — did everything from caring for patients to nutrition, housekeeping and administration.
Six local doctors were on staff.
Nurses worked impossible hours and doctors gave up office calls altogether, sleeping in their cars while being driven from one house call to the next.
Lourdes Medical Center historical account
Two years after Lourdes opened, Spanish Flu hit hard. “Conditions became incredibly difficult for the little hospital,” said the history provided by Lourdes.
Patients were put wherever they could fit. Others were isolated at home.
“Nurses worked impossible hours and doctors gave up office calls altogether, sleeping in their cars while being driven from one house call to the next,” the history said.
That epidemic, coupled with Pasco’s growth, made it clear a bigger hospital was needed.
The community once again pitched in, raising money for a new 55-bed hospital. Construction started in 1920 and the new hospital opened in 1921.
That building is still part of Lourdes today.
Over the years, the hospital experienced tough times, such as the Great Depression. It’s also seen transformational growth.
In the 1980s, Lourdes added behavioral health services through Lourdes Counseling Center.
It became a partner in the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, which opened in 1994.
It now has 10 locations and more than 200 physicians providing care. Next month, it’ll have 11 locations when it takes over the Benton-Franklin crisis response unit in Kennewick.
In the near future, Lourdes is poised for a change in ownership.
The Tennessee-based Capella Healthcare is interested in acquiring the health network. It’s signed a letter of intent with Lourdes and Ascension, which is Lourdes’ parent company.
The process is slow but on track. If the change happens, officials said Lourdes would remain a Catholic hospital — the same as it’s been from the start.
Lourdes is dedicated to healing the whole person — body, mind and spirit, they said.
It’s a mission that started with the sisters on the train from Idaho, with a community that came together in the name of health care.
One that’s remained unchanged even as years passed, buildings rose, technology advanced.
“It’s been a very good journey,” said Frank Becker, vice president of finance and chief financial officer. “We’re hopeful for a very prosperous next 100.”
Sister Polacci agreed. “I’m really glad the people of the community want to celebrate with us.”