Wesley celebrates 100 years

A look at eras past and what drives the hospital

Story by Amy Bird, photos courtesy of Wesley Hospital

From Wesley’s first patient, admitted Oct. 16, 1912, to the hundreds of thousands of patients since, the hospital’s commitment to meet the needs of the Wichita community has remained a constant, guiding force.

“The hallmark of Wesley for the last 100 years and, I think, for the next 100 years, is that we are really attuned to the needs of our community and the needs of our physician population,” says Hugh Tappan, President and CEO of Wesley Medical Center.

“When we needed air life transport, we focused on that. When we needed to upgrade our neo-natal intensive care unit and expand it to 84 beds, we did that. When we needed to create a birth care center so that moms could have a slightly different experience, we did that. We’ve moved with the community as it has needed it.”

Humble beginnings

It is with this sense of commitment to community and progress that Wesley celebrates its 100th year, upholding a tradition that started in a large, Victorian-style home at the corner of St. Francis and 11th Street. On Oct. 15, 1912, the Southwest Kansas Conference Methodist Episcopal Church opened the doors of its new hospital, Wesley Hospital and Nursing School, with 30 beds, 11 physicians, three “professional” nurses and four nursing students.

As the needs for health care in Wichita grew, Wesley grew too. In 1914, the hospital annexed a nearby house for maternity patients, opening the first free-standing birthing facility in the area. It became known as “The Baby Hospital,” a distinction it still holds today, delivering more babies than any other hospital in a 13-state region.

According to a hospital brochure from 1915, in its first two years the hospital treated 2,000 patients, performed 540 surgeries and had 156 births. Having already annexed two homes, Wesley was rapidly running out of space. With more need than money, however, the hospital wasforced to curb plans for a new building until a $50,000 donation from a former patient kicked off an official fundraising campaign.

In 1920, a new building was completed and Wesley moved to Central and Hillside, where its main campus still stands today. “The House of Healing on the Hill,” as it was advertised, increased its capacity to 125 beds. Along with the growth of the hospital, its nursing school continued to thrive. By the time the school closed in 1982, it had graduated 2,432 nurses.

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