A Brief History of Catholic Healthcare in Knoxville
St. Mary’s Hospital opened in Knoxville on April 22, 1930 under the leadership of the Sisters of Mercy, after a group of Knoxville doctors petitioned the Diocese of Nashville to open a Catholic hospital on several occasions. In 1928, the Sisters of Mercy of the Cincinnati Province agreed to take on the project. Daniel DeWine donated the land. Fundraising for the hospital was significantly affected by the Great Depression of 1929. Despite this, the hospital was able to open in 1930.
The hospital expanded many times over the years, both in size at its original hospital campus and in building and acquiring additional hospitals. Its organization was also affected by the changing health care climate and changes within the Sisters of Mercy themselves. The Sisters of Mercy of the Cincinnati Province re-organized their health ministry in 1981, forming Mercy Health Care System, renamed Mercy Health System in 1988. As other orders of Sisters joined their hospital networks to the Mercy network, Mercy Health Systems became Catholic Health Partners in 1997.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Knoxville was established out of the Diocese of Nashville in 1988.
St. Mary’s continued to expand within the Catholic Health Partners umbrella. It became St. Mary’s Health System, with 7 facilities. In 2008, St. Mary’s Health System merged with Baptist Health System to form Mercy Health Partners, still within the Catholic Health Partners umbrella.
In 2011, Mercy Health Partners was sold to Health Management Associates, Inc., a for-profit hospital organization out of Naples, Florida. At the time of the sale, Mercy Health Partners operated 6 hospitals. The Sisters of Mercy who were living on-site at the original campus were allowed to stay in residence and to serve at the hospital.
As a result of the sale, and with money negotiated from that sale, the Diocese of Knoxville established the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation to provide support for the ministry begun by the Sisters of Mercy with the opening of St. Mary’s Hospital in 1930. With the support of Bishop Richard Stika, the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation provided funds for the purchase of the St. Mary’s Legacy mobile clinic.
After beginning to see patients in January of 2014, the clinic now travels approximately 100 miles per week to extend the healing ministry of Jesus to East Tennessee.