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Demolition fence goes up around Franciscan Health Hammond Hospital

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HAMMOND — Major demolition will start soon at a more than 120-year-old hospital that has served generations of Region residents in downtown Hammond, as well as south suburban residents just across the state line in Calumet City and other communities.

A demolition fence has gone up around 226-bed Franciscan Health Hammond Hospital at 5454 Hohman Ave. in downtown Hammond. Mishawaka-based Franciscan Health has been migrating services out of the former St. Margaret Hospital to its hospitals in Dyer and Munster since announcing a radical downsizing plan of one of the Region's biggest and oldest hospitals last spring.

Interior demolition has been underway for months, but now structures themselves will start to come down. A sign says "Hammond campus renovation underway," directing both outpatient and inpatient visitors to use the entrance on Clinton Street.

The 800,000-square-foot hospital, which now stands nine stories tall, will be reduced to just 85,000 square feet once much of the campus is razed. More than 700 doctors practiced out of the hospital before Franciscan Health said it became too expensive to maintain at a time when market conditions shifted and more patients sought care in the suburbs.

Franciscan Health plans to spend $45 million to tear down much of the hospital and renovate what's left. It will continue to operate on a diminished scale as 8-bed acute care hospital, emergency department and primary care center.

The nonprofit health care system has been building newer hospital buildings to replace older ones. It recently built a new hospital along Interstate 94 in Michigan City to replace the St. Anthony Hospital that was constructed in 1904. It's in the process of building a new hospital near Interstate 65 in Crown Point to replace the St. Anthony Hospital on S. Main Street that opened in 1974.

Franciscan Health transferred most of the hospital staff to Dyer and Munster over the past year but notified the state it was laying off 83 workers there. Kindred Hospital Northwest Indiana, which operated on the fifth floor of the hospital, also shut down and laid off 110 workers.

The hospital will continue to provide a 24/7 emergency room, primary care, acute care, in-patient stays on a short-term basis, imaging services, laboratory services, wound care, dialysis and prenatal care. It will keep the parking garage and the McAuley Clinic serving low-income residents and families in need.

Earlier this year, Franciscan Health disposed of much of the furniture and equipment at the historic hospital at a community garage sale where it was given away for free.

The health care provider said the coronavirus pandemic accelerated an ongoing trend of moving health care services away from traditional hospital towers and closer to where patients live. About 50 to 60 patients were staying overnight at the hospital when Franciscan Health made the decision to shrink it by about 90%.

The hospital dates back to 1898 when it was founded by pastor of the nearby St. Joseph's Church in downtown Hammond, back when Hammond was still largely a company town serving the G.H. Hammond Company slaughterhouse. It moved to its current location in 1899. It originally had 70 beds in a four-story building but was greatly expanded over time.

Known as St. Margaret Hospital for most of its existence, countless Region residents were born and died at the hospital, which also was long the economic anchor of downtown.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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