Greenville Hospital System: Celebrating its first 100 years while remaining focused on the future

Hailed as a major step in Greenville's transformation from rural town to manufacturing and commerce center, City Hospital - after 16 years of planning by a dedicated and determined group of volunteers - was opened on January 10, 1912. Located on the southwest edge of the city, staff at the 84-bed hospital performed around 20 surgical procedures in its first month of being open.

Fast forward one century and the hospital -  now known as Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS) - has grown to a 1,268-bed academic medical center with five campuses, outpatient centers, radiology centers, and physician practices. In 2011, nearly 40K surgeries - almost 100 a day - were performed.

With over 10K employees and an annual budget of approximately $866 million, GHS has expanded to become the largest employer in Greenville County and the largest not-for-profit healthcare organization in South Carolina.

"As Greenville County has grown, GHS' plan has been to provide access to healthcare services - hospital services and physician practice services - that are close to home," said Robyn Zimmerman, director of public and community relations. "Meeting the demands of the community has been very challenging, but very exciting."

In January 2012, GHS officially kicked off a year-long celebration of its 100 year milestone - constructing a Habitat for Humanity home, hosting a half marathon, exhibiting historical artifacts, sponsoring a community-wide, digital scavenger hunt, and publishing a book which chronicles its history. The centennial celebration is set to conclude in December 2012, when memorabilia and stories collected throughout the year will be buried in a time capsule.

This summer, GHS will celebrate yet another landmark when it opens its 90,000-square-foot Health Sciences Education Building. The state-of-the-art facility will house the new University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville, the South Carolina College of Pharmacy's Upstate program, the USC School of Medicine-Columbia satellite Certified Nurse Anesthesia program, and the GHS regional simulation center.

"We have been teaching and training healthcare professionals since our inception," said Zimmerman. "We feel we need to be on the leading edge of providing the latest curriculum, teaching tools, and opportunities for a more holistic and balanced approach to teaching."

Today, outreach - festivals, health fairs, screenings, and educational programs - is a big part of the GHS profile. Realizing that caring for the community means more than just treating sick people, GHS sponsors numerous events and programs that aim to support area residents, foster healthier lifestyles, and raise money for medical research.

"We believe in wellness and in preventative measures," said Zimmerman. "We will be there when you are really sick and will provide comprehensive care, but we're refocusing our efforts to early detection of disease, screenings, and wellness."

In May 2009, the Swamp Rabbit Trail - a collaborative effort between GHS, Greenville County and the Greenville Recreation District (GRD) - was opened, transforming an old railroad bed into a multi-use trail that eventually linked Travelers Rest to Greenville and beyond. Enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts of all types, the continually-growing trail aims to improve users' quality of life and healthiness. According to a recent study conducted by GRD, Upstate Forever and Furman University, more than 350,000 people use the Swamp Rabbit each year.

"Being healthy is part of quality of life," Zimmerman said. "We feel that we need to be - and have been - an integral part of the fabric of creating a better quality of life for the communities that we serve."

Remaining true to their vision statement, GHS continues to transform healthcare for the people in the communities that they serve. "We want to be part of leading the change in creating a delivery system that is patient-focused and quality-focused, while being safe, efficient, and cost-effective," said Zimmerman. "People want care close to home and on their schedule. The delivery of healthcare is changing, and we want to be on the forefront."


Transformation: The Story of Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center

GO-HUNT-SCAN: A digital scavenger hunt

To learn more more about the Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center centennial anniversary, click here.

To learn more about Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, click here.

Top two photos courtesy of Greenville Hospital System. 

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.