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History

History

A Shared Commitment to Health and Healing

Mercy Health Network, the largest health care system in Iowa, has focused on service since its beginning.

For more than 140 years, Catholic women religious communities have run health care institutions in Iowa. The Religious Sisters of Mercy and the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters built the first hospitals, schools of nursing, and other health ministries. With little money and no access to modern drugs and medical technologies, they cared for the poor and suffering.

Their work has evolved to become Mercy Health Network. We are an integrated system of hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities. MHN stands on the shoulders of these faith-based women and their mission. We are dedicated to delivering exceptional health care services and improving the health of people throughout Iowa and adjacent areas. MHN is a recognized leader in improving community health.

Timeline
Portrait of Mother Catherine McAuley1831
Mother Catherine McAuley founds the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland.

1843
The Sisters of Mercy come to the United States to run a hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their ministry spreads quickly.

1860
Mother M. Clara Pfaender founds the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in Olpe, Germany.

1872
Three Franciscan Sisters are sent from Germany to start a mother house near St. Louis.

Late 1800s
The Sister of Mercy established hospitals across Iowa. Segments of the order, or what came to be called Regional Communities, operate the hospitals.

1879
Three Franciscan Sisters begin caring for patients in a house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Sisters of Mercy arrive in Dubuque. They launch a healing ministry now known as Mercy Medical Center – Dubuque.

1893
Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines is founded by the Sisters of Mercy from Davenport. It’s the first hospital in Des Moines. Sponsorship later is transferred to the Sisters of Mercy Regional Community in Omaha.

First Mercy nursing school graduates in Des Moines1899
The Mercy School of Nursing opens in Des Moines.

1912
The Franciscan Sisters found St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa.

1947
The Franciscan Sisters move their provincial mother house to Wheaton, Illinois, and become known as the Wheaton Franciscans.

1976
The Sisters of Mercy Health Corporation based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, forms. It controls hospitals in three states. Iowa hospitals are in Clinton, Dubuque, Mason City, and Sioux City. The group is later renamed Mercy Health Services.

Regional Communities of Religious Sisters of Mercy also operate hospitals throughout Iowa.

1983
Wheaton Franciscan Services, Inc. (WFSI) is incorporated. It embraces the hospitals and health care operations the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters had grown and merged since their beginning.

1986
WFSI sets up regional health care holding companies. They include the Franciscan Iowa Service Corporation, WFSI-Fox Valley, WFSI-Illinois, WFSI-Milwaukee and WFSI-Racine.

WFSI forms Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Iowa, by merging St. Francis Hospital and neighboring Schoitz Medical Center.

1990s
Trinity Health is created when Mercy Health Services merges with the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

1996
Catholic Health Initiatives forms. The Catholic Health Corporation (previously formed by the Regional Community of Omaha RSM) joins with other Catholic orders and health systems to create the new group. CHI is based in Englewood, Colorado. Mercy medical centers in Des Moines and Centerville are among its health care units.

1998
Mercy Health Network forms. Trinity Health and CHI agree to pursue their shared vision to improve health care services and the health status of people in their communities. The two national systems sign a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) for their units in Iowa and selected adjacent areas. They will work as one regional health system.

2000s
WFSI runs hospitals, clinics, home care, and other services and facilities in three states.

2006
WFSI unites its regions into Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group. The system includes Wheaton Franciscan Health – Iowa. The Iowa group offers care at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls and Mercy Hospital of Franciscan Sisters in Oelwein. Its services also include Covenant Clinic.

2015
The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters announce the transfer of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare to new owners and sponsors. Its Iowa facilities will become part of MHN.

2016
The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters transfer their Iowa operations to Mercy Health Network.

CHI and Trinity Health sign a new agreement. The contract makes MHN a more integrated, effective, and competitive regional health system. It simplifies decision making and streamlines business processes. MHN is more clinically, operationally, and financially integrated. Hospitals, clinics, and other ministries of MHN function as a true regional system. It responds to community needs and business opportunities quickly and efficiently. The units work together to enhance quality, control costs, and improve the health of populations.

Today
Mercy Health Network continues under the latest agreement between Trinity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, two of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health systems.

MHN with its two owner-members own and operate eight medical centers and other services in six major markets in Iowa – Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Mason City, Sioux City, and Waterloo/Cedar Falls – and community hospitals in seven other locations.

MHN has 26 affiliated organizations contracted for management and other services and one joint-venture surgical hospital in South Dakota.

MHN includes more than 3,200 licensed hospital beds.

We have annual operating revenues of more than $2.5 billion.

We employ more than 17,000 people.

Surgical services staff next to Bible verse painted on wallMore than 2,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians provide care in MHN facilities. With nearly 1,000 formally integrated, MHN is one of the largest multi-specialist physician group practices in Iowa.

The Mercy ACO (Accountable Care Organization) is recognized as one of the most successful in the nation. Health coaches and other fresh techniques help people better manage chronic diseases and improve their health.

For more information, contact MHN’s corporate offices or get information about MHN’s Board of Directors and Leadership Team. Use the search box to learn more about participating organizations, employment opportunities and many other aspects of MHN.

Our top-notch hospitals, clinics and physicians can be found close to your home.
Our programs and classes answer your health care questions.