About Us: History
The Roots of UPMC Altoona
Driven by desperate need, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the residents of the growing territory of Blair County created the Altoona Hospital in 1883. The railroad donated the land, situated along Howard Avenue between 6th and 7th streets, chosen because it was considered "a most beautiful location." It was also close to the rail lines, certainly a convenience for transporting injured railroad workers.
On Jan. 1, 1886, Altoona Hospital opened as a 30-bed, two-story wooden structure at a cost of $16,645.26. The hospital admitted 113 patients its first year.
The railroad continued to power the new hospital's early growth, even to the point of feeding and boarding the horse for its horse-drawn ambulance. In return, the railroad used the horse between ambulance runs. It was an arrangement that worked until 1917 when the hospital purchased its first motorized ambulance.
In 1904, the Altoona Hospital School of Nursing was established. A new residence hall opened in 1905 in the east end of the complex. Two students graduated from the school's first class on May 28, 1907.
In the 1920s, the hospital opened a dispensary, functioning as a precursor to today's modern trauma centers and emergency rooms.
Between 1942 and 2000, Altoona Hospital experienced tremendous growth and change. Some of the highlights included:
1957 - First ICU opens
1968 - Altoona Hospital becomes a pioneer in heart care by opening the area's first coronary care unit and then, two years later, hiring the first cardiologist as that physician specialty debuts.
1978 - Current 13-story tower constructed
1989 - Drs. John Anastasi and Burt Fazi perform first open heart surgery at Altoona Hospital, bringing cardiac care closer to home.
1994-95 - A seven-story Outpatient Center & five-story parking garage are built to meet the growing demands of the community for more outpatient services and convenience.
2001 - Altoona Hospital Trauma Center is accredited as the board of directors makes a commitment to residents of the region to provide superior emergency care when minutes matter the most.
Mercy/Bon Secours-Holy Family Hospital
In 1909, the ideas and dreams of prominent and civic-minded leaders - doctors, businessmen and a priest - who envisioned a hospital and a school of nursing for a growing community, became reality as they set their signatures to an agreement of association "for the purpose of forming a corporation to be known as the Mountain City Hospital."
Shortly thereafter, with the hope of asking a congregation of sisters to staff the hospital, the new organization was renamed the Mercy Corporation. Its purpose, as set forth in its charter, was the treatment of diseases, injuries and disabilities and the training of nurses. It was organized and conducted for purely benevolent purposes, not for profit.
The formal ceremonies marking the opening of Mercy Hospital took place July 14, 1910. The hospital was staffed by 15 physicians and six nurses, with all modern facilities such as laboratory and X-ray equipment. To meet the needs of the community, patient beds were steadily increased, reaching 180 in 1927. Major building expansion programs were also undertaken in 1960, 1976 and 1991. In 1985, Mercy became the first community hospital in the country to offer Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
In 1992, the hospital changed its name to Mercy Regional Health System to reflect its transition to a modern integrated delivery network.
The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who were asked by the board of directors in 1935 to administer the hospital and its school of nursing, guided the hospital's development for more than 60 years before inviting the Sisters of Bon Secours to cosponsor the organization in 1996. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth withdrew their sponsorship in 2003 to concentrate their precious resources on their core ministries for families.
In April 2003, collaboration efforts began anew between Central Pennsylvania Health Services Corp., the parent of Altoona Hospital, and Bon Secours Health System Inc., the parent of Bon Secours-Holy Family Hospital.
Those efforts culminated on Nov. 1, 2004, when Altoona and Bon Secours-Holy Family hospitals and more than 20 health system-affiliated companies merged to form Altoona Regional Health System:.
With reimbursements to hospitals declining nationwide and the costs of technology and skilled caregivers rising, Altoona Regional’s board of directors soon decided to consolidate inpatient and outpatient services for better care, efficiency and cost-effectiveness for the community. Services would be consolidated on the Altoona Hospital Campus, and Bon Secours Hospital Campus would close.
From October 2010 to May 2011, many outpatient services were moved to the Station Medical Center to make them more convenient and accessible.
The Altoona Hospital Campus upgraded and expanded many areas and services for efficiency and modernization.
Further expansion on that campus was made possible by the purchase and renovation of the former state-owned Altoona Center at Howard Avenue and 4th Street.
In 2011, preparing for the consolidation and subsequent closing of Bon Secours-Holy Family Hospital, Bon Secours Health System withdrew as a partner in Altoona Regional.
The decision concluded 76 years of Catholic health care in the region. It was the end of an era, and it was commemorated with a community Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona in November 2011.
With the all-new Altoona Hospital Campus emergency room and the renovated and expanded hospital well-equipped and staffed to handle the additional patients, the 7th Avenue Hospital Campus was closed at 3 p.m. on March 28, 2012.
President and CEO Jerry Murray wrote in a message to the community: “We cherish the long, proud tradition of the hospital known through the years since its opening in 1910 as Mountain City, Mercy and Bon Secours-Holy Family, as well as the long, proud tradition of the former Altoona Hospital, founded in 1883. Both traditions remain alive in spirit at Altoona Regional Health System.”
Altoona Regional builds on the rich pasts of both institutions to move forward into the future with confidence and optimism for the betterment of our health care system and community.