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Hospital History

Over a century ago, the only public hospital within a 100-mile area between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach was Alicia Hospital, located on Tremerton Street in downtown St. Augustine. At the time, this was the southern end of the city limits. The founding of Alicia Hospital culminated a campaign begun by Industrialist Henry M. Flagler.

Henry FlaglerHenry Flagler wanted to establish a hospital in the city of his new residence, and enlisted the aid of many of the town's influential ladies, including winter residents. Challenging them with a proposal they could scarcely refuse, Flagler assembled the ladies in the rotunda of his opulent Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) on May 22, 1888. He proposed a plan to provide a hospital for the community if they would form an organization to maintain the facility. The women accepted the challenge and immediately went to work planning fund-raising events and soliciting contributions. The new not-for-profit institution opened on March 1, 1890.

Through the years, the hospital experienced many changes, including being renamed "Flagler Hospital" in 1905 to honor its original founder. Fire destroyed most of the buildings in 1916. Temporary quarters for Flagler Hospital patients were found in local residences while plans proceeded for the design of a "new" structure that would adequately meet the health care needs of the growing community.

With a generous donation from Mary Lily Kenan Flagler, third wife of the late Henry Flagler, an elegant three-story brick and concrete building with a stucco finish was built. The dedication exercise and open house on January 5, 1921, attracted over 2000 people.

Flagler Hospital NursesDuring the 1930s, the Flagler Hospital maintained a consistent patient load of 60 to 70 admissions per month with about half that number occupying beds at the end of the month. In 1932 the nurse's training school, which had begun in 1913, closed due to new state laws requiring training schools to be affiliated with more than one hospital.

The year 1943 saw the number of patients cared for skyrocket to almost 200 per month with the birth rate running close to 40 per month. A serious problem in rising hospital costs was addressed in 1946. Food, cost of cotton and X-ray film had increased dramatically. Dr. Vernon A. Lockwood, chief surgeon, suggested that the charge for private rooms be increased by $1.00 daily and that nursery charges be raised from $1.50 and $2.25 daily to $1.50 and $4.50. The 10-day maternity fee was suggested at $100.00 for private rooms and $70.00 for ward beds. Operating room costs jumped to $20.00 for major operations and $10.00 for minor. Meanwhile, the Ancient City was continuing to grow. The population of St. Augustine had reached 13,555.

Flagler HospitalThe decade of the fifties dawned brightly with great promise for the future of health care in the growing city. Flagler Hospital trustees, realizing the need to increase medical facilities in the community, began by remodeling the south wing of the hospital, adding a clinic and office space for doctors. New facilities opened with a modern laboratory and complete physiotherapy and hydrotherapy rooms. With the announcement of the Florida East Coast (Railroad) Hospital closing its doors, Flagler began planning to meet yet another level of demand from the community it served. The East Coast Hospital remained open until September 1963, which gave Flagler time to complete the construction of a west wing and the renovation of the entire existing facility.

During the 1970s, Flagler Hospital was attracting new physicians in diverse medical specialties. The hospital constructed a spacious new medical annex known as the Anderson-Gibbs Building to offer these physicians a place to practice. Also during the 1970s, Flagler Hospital expanded its operating room facilities, and opened the area's first hospital-based psychiatric services.

In 1979, the trustees made a commitment to increased development of care for cardiac patients. The need for new services such as echocardiograms and cardiac stress tests was followed by the need for specific pulmonary diagnostic procedures.

The 1980s spelled a time of optimistic but cautious consideration and planning of health care in St. Augustine. County population now surpassed 50,000. Community growth was creating an access problem for patients and their families coming to Flagler Hospital on Marine Street. Also, the growth in demand for health care services required a much larger facility.

In 1989, Flagler Hospital was moved from the Marine St. location, expanding to a new 75-acre Health Park located at U.S. Highway 1. Along with increased square footage for patient care came many new and expanded departments of medicine, including The Cancer Center, The Heart Center, The Imaging Center, The Spine Center, The Women's Health Center and The Bariatric Surgery Center.

In 2005, Flagler jumped ahead of the majority of U.S. hospitals when it replaced patient charts with Internet-ready laptops. Electronic Medical Records facilitate increased efficiency, improved documentation, quality of care, security and reduced documentation expenses.
Understanding that its scope and services go well beyond its hospital walls, Flagler Hospital expanded to become Flagler Health+ in 2019. As a total care enterprise with an aim to advance physical, social and economic health for the communities it serves, Flagler Health+ is bringing more to the healthcare equation.