In the nearly 40 years since the Westlake campus opened, many changes have taken place at University Hospitals St. John Medical Center.
The hospital originally was a partnership between the former Bay View Hospital in Bay Village and St. John Hospital on Cleveland’s West Side.
During a visit to the hospital on June 8, Bishop Nelson Perez learned about the hospital, its legacy and future.
Bay View, established in 1948 in what was the former Lawrence mansion on Lake Road, was an osteopathic hospital founded by Dr. Richard Sheppard, who also served as chief of staff. After two expansions, the 126-bed hospital wanted to expand again, but could not get the required permission.
St. John Hospital, founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Francis – and later operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine – operated on Cleveland’s West Side for a century. It was looking to branch out into the suburbs, so it forged a partnership with Bay View and in 1981 St. John Westshore Hospital opened on a nearly 50-acre campus at 29000 Center Ridge Road.
Bay View Hospital closed its Bay Village facility in March 1981 and the old mansion was redeveloped as part of the Cashelmara a luxury condominiums.
St. John Hospital continued to operate its 200-bed facility on Detroit Avenue until 1990. The emergency room remained open until 1993, when it also closed. The building now houses St. Augustine Health Ministries, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland offices and a day care center.
In the ensuing years, the Sisters of Charity Health System developed a relationship with University Hospitals. UH now owns and operates the 204-bed, full-service, acute-care hospital. St. John’s is the only Catholic hospital in the UH system. Leadership includes Robert David, president; Cathy Knorzer, chief nursing officer; and Jeffrey Reilly, chief operating officer.
Although under the auspices of a secular institution, St. John Medical Center prides itself on being a Catholic hospital, David said.
Hospital officials told Bishop Perez that mind, body and spirit are integrated into the daily operations, with a strong emphasis on pastoral care and how it can make people’s lives better. They said the sisters documented what it meant to be a Catholic institution and every effort is made to retain that identity. The core values of its healing ministry are compassion, courage, respect, justice and collaboration.
The hospital has a chapel where Mass is offered most days. Patients also can watch the Mass on the television in their rooms. There is a strong religious presence in the building, with chaplains – including two Catholic priests, an Orthodox priest and a religious sister – in the hospital much of the time. Crucifixes can be found in the hallways.
According to the hospital’s mission statement, “In the spirit of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, the mission of University Hospitals St. John Medical Center is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus to all of God’s people. We are devoted to healing and addressing the unmet needs of individual, families and communities through a network of quality care delivered with compassion for all in need.”
The mission statement continues: “As a Catholic hospital, we believe in promoting and defending human dignity and attending to the whole person. It is our responsibility to care for poor and vulnerable persons and to promote the common good. In addition, we must act on behalf of justice and practice good stewardship. At UH St. John Medical Center, we are dedicated to delivering high-quality, affordable health care services in an environment that meets each patient’s physical, mental and spiritual needs.”
Hospital officials said they honor the Catholic Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, including affirming the ethical standards of behavior in health care that flow from the Church’s teaching about the dignity of the human person, as well as providing guidance on certain moral issues that face Catholic health care today.
Staff members told the bishop that meetings begin with a prayer and employees, volunteers, patients and visitors appreciate the hospital’s Catholic atmosphere.
During the bishop’s tour, a few times hospital leaders stepped away to check on the needs or welfare of a patient. While walking through one area, they saw a woman who had just lost a loved one, so a board member and two of the chaplains stopped to comfort her.
The bishop got a chance to meet many staff members and some of the more than 300 volunteers, as well as seeing medical/surgical, cardiac, maternity and emergency areas of the hospital and the Rainbow Babies and Children’s unit. He even met two of the hospital’s popular therapy dogs, One-Eyed Jack and Tabitha.