Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System is one of South Carolina’s largest healthcare providers.
It is a network of buildings, programs and more than 6,000 staff that provides health care to the community’s residents from their births to the end of their lives.
And its story is a century old.
The beginning: Improvisation and Invention
On Feb. 17, 1917, the South Carolina legislature passed an act “... to enable Spartanburg County to establish and maintain a public hospital ...”
Four years later, on Aug. 29, 1921, people arrived by motorcars, horse-drawn buggies, wagons and trolleys to celebrate the opening of their new Spartanburg General Hospital.
The first few years were devoted to getting established
The agricultural heritage of Spartanburg was evident by the farming on the grounds of the hospital. The money earned helped to build a small greenhouse for growing flowers and vegetables.
The 1929 stock market crash resulted in the closure of more than 700 hospitals across the country. Spartanburg General remained open.
Patients worked off their hospital expenses in creative ways. The dietary department cooperated with the business community, so farmers who had little cash brought chickens, fruit and vegetables as payment on accounts. Flour and sugar sacks were turned into aprons and towels.
In 1926, the hospital treated an average of 54 patients a day. By 1938, the number had increased to an average 198 patients daily.
War, nursing and expansion
World War II had a great impact on the hospital.
The School of Nursing expanded to include modern teaching facilities. And, from 1943 to 1946, the Spartanburg General Hospital School of Nursing was affiliated with the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. Nurses in training could — if needed — transfer to an Army, Navy or veterans hospital during their last six months of training.
During this time, more than 30 local physicians also left Spartanburg to serve in the war.
After the war, the focus shifted to expansion and care of children. It was the beginning of the baby boom. In 1950, a new wing brought the total capacity of the hospital to 370 beds and 81 bassinets. And the pediatric department got air conditioning.
A commitment to community
The ‘Gray Ladies’ began their service of guiding patients to their rooms from the admitting office. This was the inception of the volunteer services department.
By the mid-1960s, the hospital had more than 1,000 staff members and the patient population was about to change exponentially. In July 1966, the hospital was approved for Medicare patients. This brought a multitude of new rules and regulations, and a pressing need for trained staff and new beds.
At the same time, hospital-based nurse training programs were phased out nationally in favor of college and university training. In February 1967, hospital officials signed an agreement with University of South Carolina (USC) trustees to establish USC-Spartanburg. In May, more than 150 students entered the program.
In 1969, after 48 years, the final Spartanburg General Hospital School of Nursing class graduated. The school brought more than 1,000 graduate nurses into the profession.
A technological revolution begins
In 1968, a new data center was created to handle a modern phenomenon: a tsunami of information.
A technological revolution was also at play in medicine. New treatments for cancer and coronary disease called for new laboratories and the latest equipment.
In 1968, a newborn nursery suite opened. It contained a nursery for well babies and an intensive care nursery. There were heart rate and respiration monitors for newborns, an infant X-ray machine and a transport isolette with its own battery power so that newborns could be transported safely between hospitals.
The Age of Technology
In the 1970s, the hospital continued to grow.
In 1972, Gov. John C. West presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the $3.5 million ambulatory care, education and administration building. The building offered a modern outpatient service unit and an emergency department equal to the task of serving 40,000 patients a year.
In May 1976, ultrasound equipment was used for the first time in monitoring pregnancies. A new endoscopy department opened. In 1977, the hospital obtained a $550,000 EMI scanner, the first body CT scanner in South Carolina.
Outpatient surgery became increasingly important. The hospital was one of the first in the state to offer this option to patients.
A new role
The 1980s heralded a new direction for Spartanburg General Hospital as it moved from a community institution to a regional tertiary care hospital.
A brand-new cardiac rehabilitation program was established to treat patients with heart conditions. Spartanburg General Hospital’s first open-heart surgery was performed in 1981.
The hospital opened a new Sleep Disorders Center — one of the first programs of its kind in the Southeast.
A new name – a new way of doing things
During the hospital’s celebration of its 65th birthday in 1986, the decision was made to change the institution’s name from Spartanburg General Hospital to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center (SRMC).
The $13.5 million, 95-bed Regional Heart Center opened in July 1988. It was the first in the Carolinas to consolidate prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of heart diseases under one roof.
The new heart center brought the total number of beds at SRMC to 588.
In 1988, medical advancements included Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
The eight-story Rose and Walter Montgomery Patient Tower was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1994. The 196,358-square-foot tower was built for $33 million.
SRMC acquired new service areas in 1994 through the purchase of the building and equipment of Doctors Memorial Hospital on Serpentine Drive.
Renamed the Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care (SHRC), the hospital serves acutely ill patients who need care longer than is provided in a traditional hospital setting.
In 1996, the Regional Outpatient Center (ROC) opened.
Built on the grounds of the former nurses residence, this 200,000 square foot, $35 million project brought together all outpatient services.
The Rx Robot entered the scene in 1997, continuing the hospital’s role as an important innovator in health care. The robot improved patient care by minimizing medication errors and ensuring that expired medications were disposed of immediately.
A center of excellence emerges
A new era in Spartanburg Regional’s history began in 1999 with the opening of the $14.7 million Marsha and Jimmy Gibbs Regional Cancer Center. It included the area’s only radiation oncology center.
While directors and physicians had been planning the facility for several years, its construction was accelerated by a $1.2 million gift from the Gibbs family. The gift was a catalyst for community donations totaling more than $3 million, including $165,000 in donations from employees.
The center was one of the first facilities to offer all cancer services under one roof.
Meeting the 21st century
SRHS continues to grow and to innovate.
The 21st century is offering scientific possibilities to medicine that could never have been imagined even a decade ago.
A new Emergency Center (EC) opened in 2004 with 55 beds, double the size of its predecessor. It included a dedicated fast track area and a separate four-pod Behavioral Health Unit. The EC became one of the busiest in the Carolinas, with almost 100,000 visits annually.
In 2008, Spartanburg Regional became the first hospital in the South to perform robotic endoscopic beating-heart surgery.
In 2010, Spartanburg Regional became the first hospital in South Carolina to complete a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted lung surgery for early lung cancer.
In 2015, the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute began to use a surgery-free radiation therapy: the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System.
In 2016, Beaumont Mill filled with people for the first time in nearly 20 years. After a year of renovations, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System relocated 600 administrative and support services associates to the former textile mill.