Celebrating a 110-Year Tradition of Caring

Story by Dick Baltus

With its sprawling campus and state-of-the-art facilities and services, it can be difficult to imagine that Mercy Medical Center has served the Roseburg community for more than a century. 

But it’s true. Feb. 22, 2019, marked Mercy’s 110th year in Douglas County. 

To put that in perspective, consider this: When Mercy opened its doors back in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States — although his successor, president-elect William Howard Taft, would take the oath of office just 10 days later. Since then, 18 other presidents have come and gone while Mercy has remained a big part of local health care. 

Plans to build the original Mercy Hospital were announced during the summer of 1908 by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order for women of faith, and the order’s outpost in Omaha, Neb., which administered its activities in the Midwest and Western states. A campaign was launched immediately to raise the $12,000 required to build the hospital. 

Construction was completed in four months, and Roseburg’s first hospital — a 25-bed facility at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Madrone Street, just west of the South Umpqua River — was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday, 1909 

In its first 52 years, the three-story, wooden building survived four fires, plus 1959’s Roseburg Blast. A new brick building replaced the original in 1961 and still stands at the western foot of the Washington Street bridge. It today houses Adapt, a provider of primary care and behavioral health services and addiction treatment.

Now known as CHI Mercy Health, the medical center opened its current Stewart Parkway campus in 1977 under the leadership of Sister Jacquetta Taylor, who directed Mercy from her appointment in 1969 until her retirement in 1996. Among her many achievements — besides spearheading construction of the current facility — was getting the first CT scanner in an Oregon hospital; creating the state’s first hospital-based ambulance service; bringing dialysis services to Douglas County and opening Linus Oakes Retirement Center.

Victor Fresolone succeeded Sister Jacquetta upon her retirement in 1996. During his tenure, Mercy opened an Emergency Chest Pain Center and Sleep Center. He also oversaw two major construction projects that expanded the hospital.

Kelly Morgan succeeded Fresolone in 2006. His achievements have included opening Shaw Heart and Vascular Center, initiating a new hospitalist service, dramatically growing the medical staff and overseeing a quality program that has led to Mercy being ranked among the nation’s top hospitals.

From its modest beginnings in 1909, Mercy has evolved into a comprehensive resource, providing a vast array of preventive, diagnostic and treatment services to local residents. But even with its significant expansion in both size and services, Mercy retains the original mission and spirit of the tiny wood-frame hospital that started it all. Compassion, service, quality and innovation are still the hallmarks the medical center provides for its patients.

“We do still see the spirit of our Sisters of Mercy patrons on display every day in the way our employees care for our patients and each other,” says David Price, Mercy’s director of mission integration. “Jacquetta and Kelly have imbued the same values we were founded on into the culture of our organization. Kelly will say, ‘This is not a job, it’s a calling.’ That’s something we worked ardently to instill in our employees.”

Adds Lisa Platt, president of Mercy Foundation, “Jacquetta was a servant leader. She loved her employees, her patients and her community. Whenever her management team was considering a new initiative, she would always ask, ‘How does this affect our patients and our community?’ That’s a question Kelly still asks to this day.”