Palmetto Health Baptist celebrates 100 years serving the Midlands

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For the past 100 years, Palmetto Health Baptist hospital has lived out its mission of Christian service in the Midlands. Hospital officials and employees on Thursday celebrated the milestone by reflecting on the hospital’s history and revealing the contents of a time capsule that will be placed in the building’s wall.

“The people of Baptist have always been focused on providing the highest quality of care, compassionate care and patient centered care,” said Palmetto Health CEO Charles D. Bearman Jr. “Our vision is really important to us — it’s to be remembered by each patient for providing the care and compassion we want for our families and ourselves. This will serve as our guide for the next 100 years and we’re excited about what lies ahead.”

Palmetto Health Baptist originally was founded as the private Knowlton Infirmary on Marion Street by Columbia physician Dr. Augustus B. Knowlton. He expanded the facility to two buildings by 1912.

Knowlton’s unexpected death in 1914 at the age of 49 prompted the South Carolina Baptist Convention to purchase the hospital and nurse training program from his estate and name it South Carolina Baptist Hospital.

At the time, Columbia was just becoming a burgeoning city with 10 colleges, 11 public schools, as well as several hotels, theatres and an extensive rail and streetcar system.

“In 1914, we see this community continue to struggle with the balance of a rural agricultural past with this burgeoning urban core,” said Robin Waites, executive director of Historic Columbia Foundation.

Over the years, the South Carolina Baptist Medical center became a major institution in the region with the construction of several new buildings, upgrades to its nursing unit and the expansion of its services including a new laboratory and radiology department, as well as the addition of more than 400 beds between the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, Palmetto Health represents the largest, not-for-profit regional healthcare system consisting of six hospitals. Palmetto Health Baptist maintains 413 acute care beds with nearly 2,900 full- and part-time employees, more than 700 physicians and 500 volunteers.

The hospital is also unique in that it has only had three presidents in its history: Rev. William M. Whiteside, Dr. William A. Boyce and Charles D. Beaman Jr., all of whom provided a continuity in hospital administration that is rare in the industry.

Palmetto Health officials also revealed the contents of a time capsule that will be opened in 50 years. The capsule will include a “Walk For Life, Race For Life” t-shirt, a laparoscopic instrument used to improve surgical practice, an electronic medical record and a winning poem entry from an employee that describes what Palmetto Health Baptist means to her.

“What makes Palmetto Health so special to me is the love, is the relationship between the co-workers,” said Gail Suber, a representative for Palmetto Health Baptist’s Senior Membership Program.

Suber has worked at the hospital for 23 years. Her family has had a long history with the Palmetto Health Baptist, being the place where her children were born and the place her husband underwent surgery.

“Palmetto Health Baptist is committed. It’s committed to the team members and even their families,” she said. “They’re a very family-oriented organization and we appreciate that.”

The centennial celebration also looked to the future of the healthcare system, including the recent opening of Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge, which services residents in Irmo, Harbison, Chapin, Dutch Fork and surrounding areas. The 76-bed, full-service community hospital offers inpatient, medical, surgical and emergency care.

“We’re not done writing Baptist’s legacy, not by a long shot,” said Greg Gattman, acute care executive of Palmetto Health Baptist. “We believe our future is a bright as it has ever been.”

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