Victory Memorial Hospital: The “people’s hospital”
In 1891 a group of Lake County residents, concerned about the lack of a hospital in the county, organized the Lake County Hospital Association and opened a six-bed hospital at 720 North Avenue in Waukegan. The demand for services quickly exceeded the hospital’s capacity; new facilities were built in 1895 and again in 1904. A school of nursing was added in the early 1900s.
In 1918, as World War I came to an end and plans for a war memorial were being discussed, Fred B. Whitney, a local citizen, proposed that a larger hospital be built as a lasting tribute to Lake County soldiers who fought in the war. The charter for Victory Memorial Hospital was granted in 1919; the hospital opened in 1923 with a mission to “provide value-based healthcare services for our community, while striving for excellence and emphasizing human dignity.”
For more than 80 years, Victory Memorial worked for the betterment of the community, expanding its facilities, diversifying its programs, and innovating to serve growing needs. Among its services were an outpatient hemodialysis center, chemical dependency programs, day care for older adults, and the first blood bank in Lake County. Beyond Waukegan, it partnered with the Antioch Rescue Squad to provide treatment for critically ill patients in western Lake County and established a skilled-nursing care facility in Lindenhurst and a physical rehabilitation center in Lake Villa.
Saint Therese Medical Center: Care, support, and medical training
Saint Therese Hospital, established by the Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit, opened its doors in Waukegan in 1929. From the outset, Saint Therese dedicated itself to providing comprehensive care for vulnerable, low-income populations and to increasing the number and skill of local health service providers through professional medical education and training. Its offerings included nursing, medical technology, nursing assistant, and emergency medical technician programs.
In the area of direct care, the hospital introduced a number of “firsts” in Lake County, including the establishment of intensive care, inpatient psychiatric care, skilled nursing, and comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation units as well as a department of social work. In 1973, Saint Therese was designated an area-wide trauma center and staffed with physicians and nurses specially trained in trauma care. A satellite site in Lake Villa provided emergency medical care with advanced life-support equipment.
Beyond providing direct medical care, Saint Therese committed itself to helping patients improve the circumstances that contribute to health and well being. In keeping with its Catholic tradition, for example, the hospital offered intensive supports for pregnant single women, including housing and employment assistance. In 1985, to more accurately reflect the breadth of its services and programs, the hospital changed its name to Saint Therese Medical Center.