The History of Loretto Hospital
1923 - Present
Built in 1923, Loretto was first known as Austin Hospital, a proprietary institution owned by a group of physicians from the west side of Chicago. In 1929, during the Great Depression, Austin Hospital experienced its first take over and was purchased by the Frances E. Willard Temperance Hospital and operated under that name until 1936. The depression years brought such extreme financial difficulties that by 1937, the hospital was forced into a second reorganization. A group of public citizens, eager to keep the hospital in business, took over management and the hospital was renamed Willard Hospital.
In 1938, the hospital experienced its third reorganization. At the request of the late George Cardinal Mundelein, the Sisters of Saint Casimir purchased the property on December 10, 1938, the day of the Feast Day of our Lady of Loretto. After nearly one month of intense renovation and repairs, Loretto Hospital opened its doors to the public on January 16, 1939 under the administration of the Sisters of Saint Casimir.
In 1969, the Sisters of Saint Casimir added a new $6 million wing to the hospital. The new wing consisted of an eight-story bed wing and a new diagnostic and treatment building. In addition, a new Family Health Center (currently known as Loretto Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Clinic) was opened in the hospital to bring primary care physicians to the residents in the Austin community. In its first five months of operation, the center provided services to more than 1,800 patients. In recent years, the clinic has expanded its services to residents in Cicero, Lawndale and surrounding communities.
Throughout the 70s, the Sisters of Saint Casimir continued to modernize and expand the hospital while providing services to better accommodate the needs of the community. An outpatient mental health center (currently known as Loretto Hospital’s Behavioral Health Services – Mental Health Program), supported by the Illinois Department of Mental Health, was also established and provided services to more than 8,000 residents in the Austin community.
In 1973, the Alcoholic Program and Education Center (currently known as Loretto Hospital’s Behavioral Health Services - Addiction Center) opened to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to individuals battling alcoholism. The center was comprised of nine inpatient beds and was supervised by a staff psychiatrist and other professionals.
By 1975, the unit expanded to 18 beds. That same year, a new gift shop was opened on the main floor of the hospital. In 1976, a pediatrics unit was established on the 6th floor. In 1977, a new 20-bed medical-surgical unit was built on the hospital’s 5th floor.
The Sisters of Saint Casimir continued to manage the hospital until they resigned in 1991, turning the hospital over to an appointed board of directors and a management company, today known as the Renaissance Management Company (RMC) – Loretto Hospital’s current owner. For nearly two decades following RMC’s acquisition, Loretto Hospital faced serious financial setbacks, making it nearly impossible to initiate additional upgrades to the facility.
Despite an uncertain financial future, Loretto Hospital continued to make a difference in the community. In 1997, Loretto Hospital sponsored the Austin Chamber of Commerce, becoming a major partner and force in civic affairs in the Austin community. Three years later, the Loretto Hospital Foundation (LHF) was established as the primary fundraising entity for the hospital. The LHF’s primary goal is to raise funds to help promote the hospital’s mission of providing quality patient centered care and promoting wellness and education. Since its inception, the LHF has purchased clinical equipment, transportation vehicles, and has supported various health education and screening programs that are available to the Austin Community and surrounding communities.
The year 2009 would bring more hope for Loretto Hospital when local Austin community leaders – with a vested interest in the Loretto Hospital, stepped forward to help. In September 2009, Loretto unveiled the newly constructed Kimberly A. Lightford Emergency Department, named after State Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th District). The emergency department was funded by $8.2 million in capital improvement funds received from Lightford, and features 14 private exam rooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
The Kimberly A. Lightford Emergency Department paved the way for further improvements throughout the hospital. Because of the recent Tax Increment Financing Funds and grants awarded to Loretto, new construction, estimated at $13.1 million, has already kicked off and will continue through 2013.
Today, Loretto Hospital is the largest non-governmental employer in the Austin community with more than 600 employees; and serves more than 32,000 patients annually. The hospital offers one of the most comprehensive behavioral health programs in the City of Chicago, which includes alcohol, drug and gambling addiction programs and inpatient and outpatient mental health programs. The hospital also offers special programs geared towards the needs of the Austin Community including, but not limited to: Family Support Services for HIV, health and wellness screenings, and Golden Life Senior Wellness Program.
Click here to view the Loretto Hospital photo gallery.