In every hospital's history are milestones that shape its growth and development for years to come. Carolinas Hospital System proudly celebrated one such milestone when it opened the doors to its "new hospital for a new century" in 1998.
Bruce Hospital opened up as a four-bed clinic in a residence that was situated directly across from Saunders Memorial Hospital.
The introduction of a multimillion-dollar, 420-bed hospital system meant more than the completion of a facility to sufficiently serve patient needs in a nine-county area, and more than providing increased access to some of today's most sophisticated medical tools and techniques. By anticipating patient needs for decades to come, Carolinas designed a hospital specifically with the future in mind - a future that would continue a long-standing tradition of quality patient care in Florence.
Two Histories That Meld Into One
The foundation of Carolinas Hospital System is comprised of not one, but two healthcare organizations, both of which played important roles in the rich medical history of the Florence community. Each hospital came into being because of the vision of an individual physician, one who hailed from the North and another from the South.
The first facility was established in 1921 by Dr. John Smyser, a physician from New Jersey who married a Florence native, Janie Sue Saunders. With a grant of money bequeathed to him by his wife's father, Dr John Smyser established Saunders Memorial Hospital in honor of his father-in-law. The 40-bed facility was served by a medical staff of six physicians and grew steadily. In 1929, the entire hospital was remodeled, giving it a colonial facade many native Florentines still recall today. With a sweeping porch and grand, columned entrance, the hospital provided a warm welcome to all persons it served.
Following Dr. Smyser's death, his estate sold the hospital to Drs. Lamar Lee, Sr. and Frank B. Lee, Sr., nephews of Dr. John Barnwell, one of the six physicians on the original medical staff. In 1954, all of the hospital property was donated to the Saunders Memorial Hospital and Clinic Corporation, a private nonprofit corporation. The 1950s ushered in an era of new construction, with an expansion of facilities that included private rooms for all patients.
In the late 1960s, a six-story tower was constructed, and the original building was leveled due to irreparable structural damage. In 1972, the board of trustees renamed the facility Florence General Hospital to better reflect the hospital's mission of service to the community. A few years later, a seven-story tower was built as a west wing to the hospital. During the 1980s and early into the 1990s, Florence General Hospital went on to make significant contributions to the advancement of healthcare services in the community.
Another Physician Leaves A Legacy
Twenty-three years after Dr. Smyser founded Saunders Memorial Hospital, another physician made a lasting contribution to the delivery of healthcare in Florence. A native of St. Matthews, South Carolina, Dr. John Larrabee Bruce came to Florence to serve his internship at Saunders Memorial Hospital. He not only completed his training in Florence, but also stayed on to practice medicine in the community, and established Bruce Hospital in 1944. Bruce Hospital opened up as a four-bed clinic in a residence that was situated directly across from Saunders Memorial Hospital. After only two years, the facility underwent an extensive expansion and remodeling effort to increase the number of beds and to help meet a growing need for healthcare services.
In 1946, Dr. Bruce began performing surgical procedures in the hospital. He had an elevator installed, which opened directly into the operating room located on the second floor of the house. In fact, from there Dr. Bruce and others could enjoy watching the football games, scrimmages and other activities taking place on the athletic field behind the old Florence High School, later named McClenaghan High School.
Some thirty-six years later, the same high school that Dr. Bruce took an interest in was purchased by the hospital and converted into a fitness and retirement center. This step came as part of an emerging focus by the hospital in the 1980s to not only provide care for the sick, but also to take an active role in helping people to maintain good health. The hospital that had continued to expand its physical facilities over the past three decades was now expanding its focus as well, and implementing an intensive effort to bring an array of services to the community. A name change to Bruce Hospital System aptly reflected this new dimension of the hospital's philosophy.
A New Chapter In Healthcare
From their modest roots, Florence General Hospital and Bruce Hospital System had both progressed into sophisticated healthcare organizations. Yet rather than continue to operate as separate entities, the leadership of both facilities had the foresight to take a major step to impact the delivery of healthcare services for the future. In 1989, the boards of trustees of Bruce Hospital System and Florence General Hospital voted to organize a joint venture that would offer specialized services at a more reasonable and justifiable cost to the community. These services included magnetic resonance imaging, cardiac catheterization, rehabilitation services and maternity services through The Women's Center, a 20-bed freestanding hospital.
The success of this joint venture led to the consolidation of the two hospitals on January 1, l994 as Carolinas Hospital System. Today, Carolinas Hospital System provides a comprehensive range of services that includes acute care, cancer treatment, cardiac care, emergency/trauma services, maternity care, and an array of specialized rehabilitation programs. A regional healthcare provider, Carolinas' facilities include a Level IIl Trauma Center, and a revolutionary imaging and technology system that captures, transmits, displays and stores diagnostic radiology images. It's impressive nine-story structure is rivaled only by the people who staff it. More than 300 skilled physicians represent all major specialties. The hospital's 1,800 dedicated, experienced employees work in conjunction with the physicians to deliver compassionate, quality healthcare.
This commitment to care reflects the same abiding love of medicine and spirit of human kindness that two physicians instilled in two hospitals many years ago. It's a heritage of healing that Carolinas Hospital System is proud to claim.