The history of St.Joseph Hospital begins with the ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton, Indiana. For years, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton served local communities as teachers and nurses. Reaching out to individuals of all religious faiths, denominations and beliefs, the Sisters worked to help caregivers, served as spiritual advisors and were recognized as artisans.
In 1912, local physician Dr. Edgar Cox asked the small congregation of 38 Sisters to establish the first hospital in the growing town of Kokomo. The Sisters purchased a small property on East Vaile Avenue and converted the unpretentious homestead into a temporary 12-bed hospital. The facility welcomed its first patients on February 6, 1913.
Although small, the hospital assured that the local community had life-saving care close to home. At the same time, the Sisters began construction of Good Samaritan Hospital on the southwest corner of Vaile Avenue and Bell Street.
On November 4, 1914, patients were transferred from the temporary facility to the new hospital. In order to ensure qualified personnel to fulfill the hospital’s mission, the Sisters established the Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in 1916.
In spite of all the good done by the Sisters and Good Samaritan Hospital, it wasn’t long before the hospital became entangled in a growing national tide of racial and religious prejudice. In 1923, Kokomo was the site of a national rally of the Ku Klux Klan. In the book “The Aspirin Age” author Isabel Leighton describes the Klan marching through the center of Kokomo holding an outstretched American flag into which local citizens threw money. The Klan said they were collecting the money to fund the building of a new hospital so, “citizens would not have to suffer the indignity of being born and dying in a Catholic hospital.”
The Klan hospital, which opened in 1925, was located on the corner of Sycamore Street and Berkley Road in Kokomo and called a “county” hospital, but was closed four years later due to financial failure. The land, building and equipment were placed in receivership, and the building remained unoccupied for seven years.
In 1935 the Sisters of St. Joseph, having outgrown the Good Samaritan Hospital building, bid on the Howard County Hospital property when it was auctioned for unpaid property tax. As the successful bidders, the Sisters purchased the vacated Klan facility and began renovations. Ironically, the purchase was made possible largely through a bequest from a former patient of Good Samaritan Hospital, Henry Fisse, Jr., who had been turned away from the county hospital because he was thought to be penniless. On May 12, 1936, the 50-bed hospital was ready for occupancy and was named St. Joseph Memorial Hospital.
As the years went by, the Sisters of St. Joseph provided the oversight and sense of mission which allowed St. Joseph Memorial Hospital to meet the ever-growing needs of the community. Each expansion or addition was thoughtfully planned to fulfill the mission of the Sisters to deliver high quality health care in an environment that recognized the dignity of the individual.
In 1983, faced with an aging structure that no longer adequately met the needs of patients, the hospital’s Board of Directors approved the demolition of much of the original and subsequent wings of the hospital, building in its place a new four-story facility. This new facility, with 220 licensed beds, was occupied on March 16, 1990 and was renamed St. Joseph Hospital & Health Center.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Sisters came to recognize that they needed to find new ways to assure their mission was carried out. They explored like-minded religious congregations that could continue the sponsorship and Catholic identity of St. Joseph Hospital and found the Daughters of Charity of the East Central Province in Indiana. The Daughters of Charity had sponsored St.Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis for more than 100 years.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton saw that the transfer of sponsorship to the Daughters of Charity provided an excellent match, one in which the original mission and philosophy would remain essentially intact. The exchange of sponsorship of St. Joseph Hospital and Health Center from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton, Indiana to the Daughters of Charity of Indiana was officially recognized on July 1, 1994.
Partnership with Central Indiana Health System, 2002
In February of 1998, St. Joseph Hospital partnered with St.Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis to create the Central Indiana Health System (CIHS). In late 2002, CIHS changed its name to St.Vincent Health and began welcoming additional Indiana hospitals to the system.
Today, St.Vincent Health includes 19 ministries located throughout central Indiana. St.Joseph Hospital, now a 167-bed acute care facility, continues to be a leader in the system as we serve the residents of Kokomo and surrounding communities. A medical staff of more than 100 physicians provides medical, surgical and diagnostic services for inpatients and outpatients.Just as we did in the days of our tiny 12-bed hospital, so today do we continue to minister to the bodies, minds and spirits of the people of the greater Kokomo area guided by the mission, vision and values of our Sponsor.