On March 1, 2022, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta will celebrate half a century of dedicated service to the health care needs of the Atlanta, Cass County, and the surrounding region. During this special time, the community looks back on 50 years of growth, expertise and compassionate care – and to the road ahead.
It started as a curtained-off corner of the drugstore.
CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta began humbly but with the same clear and caring purpose that fill its halls today. While meeting the needs of the Atlanta community through the Depression, by 1935, Dr. Joe D. Nichols knew the growing population of Cass County required more health care than a home visit or pharmacy counter could provide. Along with friend and fellow physician, Dr. Ernest W. Grumbles, and a donation of land from John J. Ellington, Dr. Nichols opened Ellington Memorial Hospital on June 12, 1936. Those 11 beds comprised the first and only hospital in Cass County and was just what the community needed at the time.
“It took far-reaching vision and a deep and abiding regard for this community to grasp the growing need for health care and a hospital in Atlanta,” said Jason Adams, President, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System. “Looking back on those early years and witnessing the continuing development of this health care ministry as a foundational element of this community is inspiring and a legacy we are proud to uphold in alignment with the Atlanta Hospital Authority.”
By the 1960s with continued population growth from the oil industry and the newly constructed International Paper mill just north of town, Atlanta once again needed an answer to the looming health care demands. Led by Dr. T.K. Nichols and the Atlanta Area Chamber of Commerce, a city-wide initiative was put in place to provide a new, modern hospital. Through a public vote, the Atlanta Hospital Authority was created via city ordinance on March 4, 1968. This meant Atlanta would have a new public hospital built using federal dollars through the Hill-Burton Act, bond sale proceeds and matched funds donated – rather than taxed – by the community. A $300,000 fundraising campaign was shortly underway, spearheaded by local activist, Brigadier General Kelley Arnold, Texas National Guard. Local legend indicates General Arnold locked the members of the Atlanta Hospital Authority in a room and demanded each one commit a substantial donation to the hospital project before being allowed to leave. On March 1, 1972, patients from Ellington Memorial Hospital were transferred to the new, state-of-the-art Atlanta Memorial Hospital.
“My wife and I moved back to Atlanta in 1970,” said Dr. J. Dan Nichols. “At that time, Atlanta Memorial Hospital was being built due to the need for a more modernly equipped hospital and through the generosity of Atlanta area citizens who contributed and raised funds to match the grant money provided by the government’s Hill Burton Act. The new hospital included the most up-to-date equipment and surgery, obstetrics, ICU and general patient beds were provided. During the next 50 years numerous additions were added to the hospital.”
“Ten years ago, CHRISTUS St. Michael leased the hospital due to the need for a larger provider,” he continued. “They also improved numerous services. Atlanta Memorial Hospital and CHRISTUS St. Michael have offered excellent health care to the deserving citizens of the area, and I feel confident that we can continue to do so in the future.”
“Time and need have continued to change and shape the health care services in Atlanta,” said Rachel Bouchard, Administrative Director, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta. “In the 1990s a spacious new patient wing and a professional office building were added to Atlanta Memorial Hospital, and a Medical Plaza was opened in 2008 to house a variety of outpatient specialty clinics and health education services for the hospital.”
In early 2012, the leadership of Atlanta Memorial Hospital recognized the changing climate of health care reimbursement, growing community needs, increased cost of capital improvements, and need to move to the next generation of technology. Acknowledging these new challenges, the Atlanta Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees sought out a new ally to ensure the continued success and service of the hospital, partnering with CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System. CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital-Atlanta opened on Jan. 2, 2013.
“Becoming CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta was a demanding process, but the similar mission, vision and values created a natural fit, both with the Associates as well as our community,” said Bouchard. “CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta is a faith-based health care ministry with a mission to ‘extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.’ Our health care ministry provides emergency care, inpatient care, and outpatient services to patients within our immediate and surrounding community.”
Over the course of the last 10 years, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta has grown to meet the needs of the communities it serves, expanding access to high quality, faith-based health care services in Northeast Texas. In this short period, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta has expanded the Emergency Department, opened a new Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, and added Outpatient Wound Care Services and Outpatient IV Therapy Services, along with a Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program. The services provided have also expanded to include upgraded cardiac monitoring, a digital X-ray suite with upgraded CT scanner, Teleneurology and TPA for treatment of strokes, and support for Level III Stroke Care. Additionally, the providers at CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta have been recognized for their care with Chest Pain Accreditation and Advanced Nursing Certifications in Stroke, Emergency and Trauma, and the hospital has been designated as a Level IV Trauma Center.
In December of 2021, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta reaffirmed their commitment to the health of the Northeast Texas communities they serve with the renewal of their 10-year agreement with the Atlanta Hospital Authority to operate the hospital and facilities through December 2032.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue our relationship with CHRISTUS St. Michael for another 10 years,” said Paul Cothren, Atlanta Hospital Authority Board of Directors. “CHRISTUS has already made a tremendous impact on our community with the level of care and services they provide, and we are united in our effort going forward. From the dedicated volunteers and support staff to the professional staff and specialists, we are blessed to have a group of people so personally committed to our health care needs right here at home.”
“With this renewal, CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital – Atlanta will continue building upon a legacy that stretches back over the past 50 years, providing quality, compassionate care for our patients in Atlanta, Cass County and across surrounding communities,” said Adams. “We are excited to continue this journey, fulfilling our mission of extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and serving this region for years to come.”