St. Rose Health Center traces its history back to October 1902, when three doctors asked the Dominican Sisters to establish a hospital in the Great Bend area. Surgical cases at that time were sent to Wichita or Kansas City. General care was not available. None of the seven pioneer Sisters, who had come from Brooklyn in April to establish the Dominican foundation, were nurses. However, the Sisters responded to the challenge and petitioned their previous Dominican community for a Sister nurse. In April 1903, Sister Loretta Feinler, a registered nurse and pharmacist, came from Brooklyn, New York to open a hospital in Great Bend.
Interested citizens rented and equipped one of the dormitory buildings of the old Normal College for the new hospital. It was named St. Rose after the Peruvian Saint known for her compassion to the sick and poor. St. Rose Hospital had eight rooms, five for patients, one for sterilizing, laundry and kitchen, one for the dining room and another for the reception room. The first patient was admitted on April 5, 1903, and the first operation was performed four days later.
In less than a year, many patients were refused admission due to lack of space. Thus began a period of rapid growth for the hospital. As early as 1906, formalized education for nurses was provided in conjunction with clinics and hospitals. St. Rose Hospital Training School was established in September 1917 and later became the Dominican School of Nursing. The three-year diploma program was phased out in 1971 when Barton County Community College began offering Associate Degree Programs in Nursing. With the financial support of the Great Bend community, the new St. Rose Hospital was built near the convent and dedicated on August 17, 1922. In less than five years, additional beds and space were necessary. On November 24, 1927, the west wing of St. Rose Hospital opened, increasing the bed capacity to 125.
Throughout the years, St. Rose Hospital continued to add services-a pediatric department in July 1937, a canteen in January 1948, a recovery room and a five-bed obstetrical ward in January 1956. In the early 50’s, St. Rose was operating beyond capacity and patient beds were sometimes placed in hallways. Between 1954 and 1956, a lay advisory board worked persistently and creatively with the administration of St. Rose Hospital and the Dominican Sisters to initiate plans for a completely new 150-bed hospital, expandable to 200 beds.
With the financial support of the community through the Community Hospital Association, St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center , with its innovative six-story cloverleaf design, was dedicated on March 1, 1964 with an estimated 20,000 visitors in attendance. In a painful yet necessary decision, the old St. Rose building was eventually demolished in 1993.
The first lay board for St. Rose Health Center was created in 1969 and continues to be a model for governance. The Dominican Sisters, seeing the need to identify new ways to continue their healing ministry while encountering limitations in their human resources, helped to create a new organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, in 1996. The Dominican Sisters maintain their presence on the St. Rose ASC Board of Directors while having an opportunity to influence healthcare on a national level.
In June of 2000, St. Rose campus celebrated the completion of a 2-year, 6.7 million dollar renovation. The majority of outpatient services are now conveniently located together on the main floor of the hospital. New classrooms were created off of the cafeteria to enhance educational opportunities for the hospital as well as the public.
St. Rose Health Center continues to add services to fit the needs of our communities. The future holds both promise and challenge. Even though St. Rose ASC has experienced a variety of changes over the past several decades, the commitment to providing high quality care in a cost-efficient manner remains a top priority.