132-Year-Old Hospital Turns 20; Covenant HealthCare Celebrates 20th Anniversary

July 1, 2018 officially marked 20 years since Covenant HealthCare was founded. July 1, 1998 two long-standing Saginaw-based hospitals (Saginaw General and St. Luke’s Hospitals) merged to form Covenant HealthCare.

Today, Covenant HealthCare delivers care across generations and across specialties in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond. With 4800 employees and a medical staff of more than 500 physicians, the Saginaw-based health system offers a broad spectrum of programs and services including high-risk obstetrics, neonatal and pediatric intensive care, acute care, a Level II Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center, cardiology, oncology, orthopaedics, robotic surgery, virtual care and more. For more information, visit www.covenanthealthcare.com

Below is information about the two founding organizations:

Saginaw General Hospital

1887 - 1998

Saginaw Hospital was founded in 1887 by a group of 24 Saginaw women, despite the doubts of their wealthy husbands and the skepticism of the city's doctors. The women persevered, proposing building a hospital for women and children. At the suggestion of local physicians, the hospital would also serve the general needs of the community. Officials selected part of a block bounded by Cooper, Harrison and Fayette streets for the new hospital and lumber baron Arthur Hill and his brother, Wilbur, donated the farmland to the hospital association.

Saginaw Hospital opened in 1889 with room for 24 patients. That same year, the School of Nursing was established. In 1898, the hospital's name was changed to Saginaw General Hospital.

Some early milestones included Saginaw General Hospital expanding to include 100 beds and a 22-bed nursery in 1921. Men were given 12 seats on the 24-seat board of trustees in 1924. A prenatal clinic opened in 1928 and a free diagnostic clinic opened in 1933. In 1939, the hospital celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Four years later, in 1943, the original hospital building was torn down and a wing was built to match the construction of 1921; the nursery was also expanded to 50 beds.

Then in 1962, a $3.2 million building program was completed, which boosted bed capacity and included an intensive care unit. The hospital’s entrance and main section located on Harrison Street was also added. The Auxiliary, a dedicated group of volunteers, opened its first gift shop in 1962.

In 1968, a landmark agreement was made between health care neighbors St. Luke's and Saginaw General hospitals. Rather than maintain duplicate, costly, complete services less than a city block apart from one another the hospitals agreed to consolidate resources for obstetrics and pediatrics. Saginaw General took sole responsibility for obstetrics while St. Luke's concentrated on pediatrics. At this time, Saginaw General enlarged and expanded its obstetrical services and incorporated a regional neonatal intensive care unit.

During the 1970s building projects were completed, adding numerous floors and wings to the hospital. Many services and beds were also added to the hospital.

In July 1993, Saginaw General North opened its doors to serve the community. Located at 5400 Mackinaw, Saginaw General North offered outpatient surgery, physical medicine, diagnostic imaging, a breast diagnostic center, the Frank N. Andersen Regional Eye Institute, Cancer Care Center, Cardiovascular Health and Wellness Center and Occupational and Preventive Medicine Associates of Michigan.

In 1996, Saginaw General Hospital began to explore the possibility of forming an alliance with another health care provider to continue to provide the highest quality health care to the communities served.

On May 29, 1997, Saginaw General Hospital selected St. Luke's Healthcare Association, a long-time neighbor, as the organization to merge with.

On July 1, 1998, the merger was completed and Covenant HealthCare was formed.

St. Luke's Healthcare Association

1886 – 1998

The rapidly growing city of Saginaw was a challenging place for women in the late 19th century. The Thompson Street Mission Home was founded in 1886 by a small, but dedicated, charitable group to help these struggling women; providing shelter, encouragement and help in obtaining work.

The matrons of the mission soon realized that their efforts needed to be extended. Hard-working women - some being mothers trying desperately to care for their children - were suffering the cruelties of underemployment. Through this need, the idea of a hospital for women took root.

In 1888, the mission moved to Janes Street and was rededicated as Working Women's Home and Hospital.

From 1888 to 1895, the hospital - and its reputation - grew by leaps and bounds, expanding with a large brick addition, growing from six beds to several private rooms, a general ward, a large nursery and an operating room. A nursing school was also established.

In 1910 a children's ward was added, followed by expanded operating rooms in 1916. The Janes Street building served Saginaw until the late 1940s.

During the Great Depression, the aging facility and corporation fell on hard times. Rather than being closed, it was taken over on May 1, 1932, by the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of Saginaw Valley. All the finances and responsibilities for the original Working Women's Home and Hospital were also acquired. In a formal dedication ceremony, the facility was renamed St. Luke's Hospital.

In 1935, the Inner Mission Society passed control of the hospital to a new group - the St. Luke's Hospital Association, a non-profit corporation comprised of interested segments of the area's Lutheran community. This was a turning point, generating renewed dedication and optimism. Through donations, careful management and eventually some community aid, St. Luke's Hospital was not only surviving but actually growing again.

Prior to World War II, discussions began regarding a new St. Luke's facility on the west side of the river. The population of the city was shifting and there was a need for a hospital in this developing area. However, the war effort captured everyone's attention and dreams of a future, new hospital became distant.

Following the war, the need for a new site and building became critical. On October 16, 1949, the cornerstone was laid for the new St. Luke's Hospital with the inscription: Soli Deo Gloria, meaning Glory to God alone. Approximately a year and half later, on February 25, 1951, the ribbon was cut for the new 144-bed St. Luke's Hospital. A weeklong grand opening had Saginaw residents standing in line for hours to tour the new facility. Over 20,000 people toured the hospital that week.

In 1968, a landmark agreement was made between health care neighbors St. Luke's and Saginaw General hospitals. Rather than maintain duplicate, costly, complete services less than a city block apart from one another the hospitals agreed to consolidate resources for obstetrics and pediatrics. Saginaw General took sole responsibility for obstetrics while St. Luke's concentrated on pediatrics. St. Luke's pediatrics unit was enlarged and refined, incorporating a pediatric intensive care unit - a feature still unique to the east central Michigan area.

In 1985, six St. Luke's physicians opened the first MedExpress located in Frankenmuth, closely followed in 1987 by 10 physicians opening a MedExpress on State Street in Saginaw. St. Luke's purchased these facilities in 1989. MedExpress services were expanded to include a location in Shields.

In 1986, St. Luke's constructed the Surgicare building for outpatient ambulatory services.

In 1987, St. Luke's purchased the Saginaw Osteopathic Hospital facility on Michigan Avenue allowing St. Luke's to extend their health care capacity.

Always community minded, St. Luke's and its family continued to grow. In 1998, with long-time neighbor Saginaw General Hospital, a strong, healthy alliance is formed. Together they formed Covenant HealthCare System, a name that is literally filled with promise for everyone involved.