Richland 125

A vision that changed a community

As Prisma Health Richland Hospital celebrates its 125th anniversary, the dream to provide compassionate care for the community lives on, stronger than ever. From our humble beginnings in 1892 to today, Prisma Health is more committed than ever to providing high quality health care to those we serve.

Richland 125
From humble beginnings: 1892-2017

On Sept. 17, 1892, the state of South Carolina issued a charter to Columbia Hospital. This year, the hospital celebrates its 125th anniversary.

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Prisma Health Richland Hospital: a historical timeline

Columbia Hospital 1893In April 1892, at a meeting of the King’s Daughters, Mrs. David Flenniken proposed that the organization "undertake the building of a hospital in Columbia." With less than $20 in their treasury, there was little enthusiasm for the suggestion. Nonetheless, the idea persisted and in May, the Columbia Hospital Association was organized to raise funds to build the hospital. On Sept. 17, 1892, the state issued a charter (pictured below) to Columbia Hospital.

When Columbia Hospital opened its first permanent structure Nov. 1, 1893, it was a 20-bed brick hospital with a fireplace in each room. Adjacent to the hospital was a railroad infirmary where care was offered to sick railway passengers, and an almshouse built by a local organization to provide charity care.

Richland CharterDr. Benjamin Walter Taylor, a former Civil War surgeon and descendant of the Taylor family who gave land for the establishment of the city of Columbia, was the first chief of the Columbia Hospital medical staff. Before the opening of a permanent hospital, he performed the hospital’s first surgery in the city almshouse using a pine plank as the operating table and water heated on a wood stove for sterilization.

For the first six years, nurses from the South Carolina State Hospital staffed Columbia Hospital until nurses from the new Columbia Hospital Training School for Nurses finished their two-year program.

By 1903, Columbia Hospital’s operating rooms contained some of the best equipment available, but no air conditioning. Windows often were left open during surgery. Two years later, the hospital needed additional beds, so the ladies of the Columbia Hospital Association raised funds to build a surgical pavilion with 25 rooms. They also donated window and door screens to improve patient and staff comfort.

Columbia Hospital Nurses 1910In the early days, nurses had extensive duties. Not only did they care for patients, they also created medical bills, ordered supplies and cooked for their patients. It was not unusual to find a nurse sitting on the back steps of the hospital shelling peas or shucking corn in preparation for a patient meal.

Nurses, who were first housed in the hospital, later had rooms in neighboring houses because it was less expensive for the hospital. Knowing the nurses needed undisturbed rest and a more normal home life, the Walter Taylor Home for Nurses was built in 1907 partially using recycled materials from the city almshouse (pictured right).

We, who went forward happily believing our work was worthwhile, have closed our kits and snuffed out our light of vigilant service until the Eternal call. Others more able will carry on.

– 1908 graduating class, Columbia Hospital Training School for Nurses


Columbia Hospital 1905By 1909, the 70-bed hospital had become too cumbersome for the ladies of the Columbia Hospital Association to handle. An effort to get the county to take over its administration failed. The hospital, debt-free with money in the treasury, was turned over to the 26-member medical staff who made major organizational improvements. In 1921, the hospital was turned over to the Richland County delegation.

Then and now, physicians put in long days. In addition to caring for patients, they gave their time to teach nurses as well as provide them with free medical and surgical care. The hospital continued to expand to meet the growing demands of the community and medical residency programs were started.

In 1920, Dr. T.K. Fairey became the first resident physician. The first intern physicians came to the hospital four years later after completing their first year of medical school.

The addition of intern physicians, combined with improvements in the nursing school, changed the character of the hospital's service. Full-time, trained instructors were used in the nursing school, and nursing supervisors were assigned to the floors. Nurses no longer were required to work as many hours each day, and clinics were established to meet the growing medical needs of the poor.

By 1933, the hospital had expanded to 275 beds, and clinics were open every weekday. On Jan. 10, 1934, the first black patient was admitted to Columbia Hospital's 75-bed West Wing – a separate brick building that faced Hampton Street. Before this time, black patients were cared for by Good Samaritan Hospital and Waverly Hospital, which later merged and, eventually, closed. Black nurses staffed and trained in the West Wing, which was the most modern of the hospital's facilities.

First African American Nurse Class Columbia HospitalIn 1935, the School of Nursing for Black Students was established. Ten students initially enrolled and graduated three years later. Lectures and course work were the same for both the white and black schools. Later, the same faculty taught at both schools.

In 1910, dedicated space was set aside for the treatment of children. That same year, Dr. William Weston Sr. became the first physician in the state to limit his practice to pediatrics. It wasn't until 1941 that plans were made for the construction of facilities to meet the specific needs of children. Nurses were urged to take postgraduate courses in pediatric nursing to offer the very best care. Children with special needs came from throughout South Carolina to be treated at the hospital.

In 1943, the oldest section of the hospital, known as the East Wing, changed as well. Gone were the charming verandas and open fireplaces. Operating rooms were moved to the interior of the building. Self-operating elevators were installed, and the tall white columns that graced the front of the building were removed. Columbia Hospital 1960s

In 1958, the hospital’s new fully air-conditioned wing on Hampton Street opened, which was the first in the Midlands to have electrically operated patient beds. Until this time, not even operating rooms were air-conditioned on a year-round basis. By the early 1960s many parts of the hospital were very old and there was no room for expansion.

Over the years it seemed that Columbia Hospital was always undergoing some form of change to meet the community’s medical demands, but by the 1960s the hospital was changing to meet the community’s social demands as well. What had started out as one hospital had eventually evolved into two separate units for black and white patients.


1960 Nurse ClassCivil rights legislation affected many institutions, and Columbia Hospital quickly changed its staffing and admissions policies accordingly. The hospital already had many proud "firsts" to its credit and, not surprisingly, became the first hospital in the city to end its dual system of health care.

During the 1960s, the health care needs of the city of Columbia were being reassessed. Due to rapid population growth, Columbia Hospital began long-range planning to meet those needs. In 1964, Richland County voters approved a $6 million bond issue for the construction of a 300-bed hospital to supplement Columbia Hospital's existing facilities that then would be renovated. A 50-acre tract of land was purchased in 1965 for the new construction. After careful consideration of community needs and the costs involved with new construction versus extensive renovations, the Board of Trustees recommended that a new 600-bed hospital be built to replace Columbia Hospital.

Richland Memorial near completeWith voter approval and additional financial help from federal funds, the Duke Endowment and private businesses, the newly named Richland Memorial Hospital was built and the doors opened March 4, 1972, to 163 patients. Beginning at 8 a.m., patients were transferred from Columbia Hospital with help from staff, family members, South Carolina Electric and Gas buses and the National Guard. The hospital was in operation by lunchtime. Neonatologist Dr. Tom Austin said, “Everyone’s role was not clear, but everyone simply pitched in to get the job done.”

In 1974, the first Richland Memorial/USC affiliation for medical resident education was signed. Over the next decade, the campus continued to expand with the construction of several clinics including an Ambulatory Care Center to house fulltime faculty members from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine who taught and still practiced privately.

Richland Memorial Trauma UnitIn 1980, the hospital opened the first and only Level 1 Trauma Center in the Midlands. The Trauma Center treats the most critically ill and injured patients locally and across 16 South Carolina counties.

Three years later, an entire floor was dedicated to a long-awaited Children’s Hospital – South Carolina’s first hospital for children.


Richland marketing team 100 year anniversaryIn 1992, Richland Memorial Hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary, including a picnic on the front lawn with team members in period costumes (pictured right). The following year Richland Springs, a freestanding behavioral care center, opened. William L. Ivey, Richland’s chief executive officer (CEO) and president, retired and Kester S. Freeman Jr. became CEO.

In 1995, Richland Memorial continued to expand services to meet community needs with the opening of a Level III neonatal intensive care unit and the Gamma Knife Center, a radiosurgery center offering a safe, highly effective nonsurgical procedure to treat brain tumors and other abnormalities.

In the mid '90s, dramatic changes in the health care industry forced many hospitals to change or be left behind. To remain competitive, health care systems had to become more efficient, deliver higher quality health care, and increase access and choice for patients.

Palmetto Health merger 1998

To respond to these changes, in February 1998, Richland Memorial Hospital and Baptist Healthcare System of South Carolina came together to form Palmetto Health, a bold, new, locally led health care system.

Pictured left to right: Rep. Lester P. Branham Jr., James H. “Jed” Suddeth Jr., Kester S. Freeman Jr. and Charles D. Beaman Jr.

Upon completion of the merger, Kester S. Freeman Jr. became CEO of Palmetto Health and Charles D. Beaman Jr., who led the Baptist Healthcare System, became President. Dr. Daniel B. Paysinger, a retired neurosurgeon, became chief operating officer of Palmetto Health Richland. Jay Hamm became COO of Prisma Health Richland Hospital in 2013.

Prisma Health Richland Hospital Leadership


Palmetto Health Heart Hospital opening 2006Since becoming Palmetto Health Richland in 1998, the hospital’s services and facilities have continued to grow. In 2006, South Carolina’s first and only freestanding Heart Hospital was opened on the campus, followed by a new Children’s Hospital in 2008. Specialty centers and services have been added including a Level II pediatric trauma center and an infusion center. The Advanced Heart Health Center cares for people suffering from heart failure and valvular heart disease. Patients are able to complete cardiac testing and receive treatment from a dedicated heart failure team.

Prisma Health Richland Hospital has a long history of innovation in its 125 years, including outstanding achievements in neurology and neurosurgery services. In 2006, the facility began performing neurointerventional procedures. In 2009, a combined service line to improve patients’ experiences and outcomes was launched. The service line includes an Advanced Primary Stroke Center and a new 16-bed Neuroscience ICU solely dedicated to the care of critically ill neurological patients, as well as a surgery program that employs advanced neurosurgical techniques.

Children's Hospital Grand Opening 2008The Joyce Martin Hill Emergency Mental Health Center, housed in the Emergency Department, has specially trained staff and physicians who have access to community services to help patients and their families. A Novel Disease Unit was opened to care for patients with emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola.

In 2015, Palmetto Health Richland became certified for Nurses Improving Care of Health System Elders and opened an Acute Care for the Elderly unit to enhance patient care and safety for hospitalized adults 65 and older.

Within the past year, several Accountable Care Units also have been established. The ACU method of care improves communication and coordination among all caregivers. A multidisciplinary care team visits patients and their families together each day, resulting in improved patient satisfaction, better outcomes and reduced hospital stays.

Richland at 125

Today, Prisma Health Richland Hospital is a 649-bed regional community teaching hospital that cares for patients from every county in the state. Areas of specialty include behavioral care, cardiology, neonatology, neurosciences, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics, robotic-assisted surgery and trauma. The hospital trains the next generation of physicians through its 24 residency and fellowship programs affiliated with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.

Each year, the hospital welcomes more than 2,300 babies into the world, performs more than 19,000 surgeries and accommodates more than 91,000 emergency department visits and nearly 700,000 outpatient visits.

Our Richland team members, physicians and volunteers, along with the entire Prisma Health system, are dedicated to working together to care for our patients and their families.

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