In the spring of 1910, the Flathead Indian Reservation was opened to settlers. Several thousand people arrived to establish their homesteads; However, there were not any provisions for schools or hospitals for the new settlers.
In the fall of 1913, Bishop John P. Carroll created the diocesan parish of Polson. Included in its jurisdiction was the northern half of the reservation. The first resident pastor, Reverend A. M. O’ Maley, took possession of this parish on October 5, 1913. Father O'Maley managed the new parish only a short time before seeing a great need in the rapidly growing community. He asked the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph to come to Polson to start a hospital.
Sister St. Joseph (Mary Agnes Leahy), Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart (Catherine Leahy) and Sister Gertrude Leahy travelled to Polson from Hotel-Dieu, in Kingston, Ontario, to create a hospital. They converted the East Side Hotel into a hospital with a capacity for six patients, and called it Hotel Dieu Hospital. It opened on October 10, 1916.
Two years later, during an influenza outbreak, 11 patients occupied the hospital and another temporary hospital was established in the Cottage Hotel.
In 1921, the Sisters bought the A. M. Davidson home, near the present hospital site, and added a wing to create a 17-bed capacity.
In 1930, work began on Kerr Dam and the powerhouse. The population increased rapidly and a larger hospital became imperative. In 1932 they broke ground on a 30-bed brick structure and completed construction on November 6, 1933.
Growing to Meet Community Needs
By the 1950s, the community had again outgrown its medical facility and needed a larger hospital. With community contributions, various federal funds, a Ford Foundation Grant and a loan obtained by the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph, a new 40-bed facility was built and opened in late 1959. The facility was dedicated on March 19, 1960.
The Religious Hospitallers, faced with an aging membership and few younger recruits, appointed a lay administrator and withdrew from active participation in the hospital. The Sisters remained on the Board of Directors until March 13, 1984, when the hospital’s sponsorship was transferred to the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Sponsorship by the Sisters of Providence
On March 1, 1990, the Sisters of Providence assumed responsibility for the hospital, allowing St. Joseph Hospital to continue providing health care services to the community. The Sisters of Providence understood the vital impact of the hospital to the well-being of the community. Faced with an old building in need of extensive upgrades to meet standards and maintain its operating license, the St. Joseph Hospital Board of Directors reviewed options and concluded that new construction was the solution.
The sponsors recognized that people need health care that meets the needs of changing lifestyles and technology. Physicians and patients need modern diagnostic imaging equipment, outpatient surgery, physical therapy, cardiovascular rehabilitation, home health services and wellness and fitness programs.
The resulting vision was one where the hospital and doctors worked together to provide primary health care services in a state-of-the-art facility, designed to meet the health care needs of the growing, diverse and aging community. The plan included replacing the building erected in 1933 with a new structure that included:
- A modern imaging suite
- A new emergency room
- A new surgical suite
- Patient rooms
- Medical office space
- Administrative office area
The cost of the project was estimated at $10 million. The community, combined with donations from foundations, generously contributed $1.6 million. The balance of the project was financed through a Providence Bond Issue.
The old building was razed and the new one rose in its place with great anticipation. The new building, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, provides "one-stop-shopping" for medical services, patient convenience for doctor visits, a complete retail pharmacy available five days a week, and closer proximity to testing laboratories so patients do not have to leave the building.
The Family Maternity Center was expanded to foster a sacred experience with more family interaction. The new hospital takes full advantage of the beautiful views of Flathead Lake and is filled with natural light, which combined with the care, competence and training of our staff, make this a special healing place.
Under the sponsorship of Providence Health & Services, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center participates as a member of a system of hospitals and an affiliate of Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Expansion of services, shared purchasing and management expertise provide fundamental value to the community.