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Mayo Clinic Hospital opens, St. Vincent’s, St. Luke’s Merge


Mayo Clinic Hospital opens, St. Vincent’s, St. Luke’s Merge

The new Mayo Hospital opened in April, 2008.

Photo © Mayo Hospital
Updated May 22, 2008
One started with a tornado-torn, Rochester, Minn. cornfield in 1883 and a group of nuns who found a new calling. Another began as a two-room cottage with four beds and an annual budget of less than $1,000. And a third started as the DeSoto Sanitorium in Jacksonville’s Springfield district. They would become the three Grande Dames of Jacksonville Healthcare. Come April 12, each will begin new eras and local patients will get a cadre of new options. St. Luke’s Hospital will officially transfer to the ownership of and operation by St. Vincent’s Healthcare, and Mayo Clinic Jacksonville will open the doors of its new six-story, 214-bed Mayo Clinic Hospital.

The Only Thing Permanent is Change

“Today, the only thing that is permanent is change,” quipped Dr. Charles Mayo, MD in 1930. Cliché, perhaps, but truer words ne’er were spoken. It was Dr. Mayo’s father, Dr. William Warrell Mayo who had called upon the Sisters of St. Francis to help care for townsfolk injured in the tornado – never mind that the kindly nuns were trained as teachers, not nurses. Turns out these women of God had a knack for the healing profession. Together, the elder Dr. Mayo and the Sisters of St. Francis, with donations of $2,200, founded would become Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester with facilities today in Phoenix and Jacksonville.

Crown Jewel

In many ways, Mayo Clinic has been the local healthcare industry’s crown jewel since landing on Jacksonville’s Southside in 1986. A 1998 nationwide survey shows Mayo boasts 84-percent name recognition, making it perhaps the only true national brand name in American medicine and bringing the River City a measure of prestige. Locals rally when famous names like Rev. Billy Graham seek treatment there. Charles Mayo and brother, Dr. William J. Mayo formed one of the world’s first private integrated practices of medicine and the institution has logged numerous major medicine firsts since, including the 1975 introduction of computerized patient charts tracked via bar codes.

The Mayo Clinic Hospital continues that tradition, right down to its interior design. Patients and visitors waltzing into the front doors will feel more like they’re entering a swanky hotel than a traditionally sterile hospital setting. Note the Dale Chihuly blown-glass chandelier; decorative stonework from Jerusalem, Brazil, Pakistan and Spain throughout the building; and the meditation gardens and reflection pond out front, offering a quiet respite for patients’ friends and family. But don’t get too attached to the hospital’s current look. It’s built for expansion and eventually will add another 10 floors and nearly 300 rooms.

Striking a Deal

Meanwhile, St. Vincent’s officials are stoked about the takeover of St. Luke’s Hospital, which began in that two-room cottage and four moves later (one necessitated by an arsonist’s blaze) landed in its current location on Jacksonville’s Southside. St. Vincent’s (Jacksonville’s third hospital, borne of the original DeSoto Sanitorium) and Mayo Clinic struck a deal years ago for the sale of St. Luke’s to St. Vincent’s. The sale actually went through in 2003, but St. Vincent’s agreed to lease St. Luke’s back to Mayo until the opening of the new hospital.

Despite the good will, a bit of a legal spat ensued shortly after the agreement was inked. Both St. Vincent’s and Mayo laid claim to the state-granted CON (certificate of need), a designation that allows for heart surgeries at St. Luke’s. Mayo asked to keep the CON for use at its new facility. St. Vincent’s – lauded as one of the nation’s top heart hospitals – argued, ‘a deal’s a deal,’ and the CON comes with the St. Luke’s package. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration ruled in Mayo’s favor.

In any case, now that the legal dust has settled, the clear winners are Jacksonville’s patients. Mayo Clinic loyalists get an entirely new hospital. And St. Vincent’s and St. Luke’s patients will glean the benefits of a powerful new partnership. But it’s not over. St. Vincent’s is laying the groundwork for a newly constructed hospital of its own in nearby Orange Park. So, if you live in or near Jacksonville and you’re gonna get sick anyway, now is as good a time as any.

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