Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital Celebrates 50 Years (Palos Heights, IL) — When the doors of what is now Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital opened on March 19, 1972, the first patients in the emergency room were treated for a chipmunk bite, removal of a fishhook from the leg, and multiple splinters due to a fall down the toboggan at Swallow Cliffs. It’s no surprise that fifty years later, due to the numerous nature preserves nearby, the emergency room still gets a fair share of outdoor injuries. However, the leading diagnoses in 2021 were COVID-19 viral infections, abdominal or chest pains, and orthopedic injuries.
Originally named Palos Community Hospital, the 267-bed cross shaped hospital was constructed at a cost of about $13 million dollars on a secluded 40-acre wooded hill known as Mount St. Joseph. Today, Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital is a 425-bed hospital that provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services.
Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital Admitted over 17,500 Patients, 196,000 Outpatients
During its first year, 8,000 patients were admitted to Palos Hospital. Last year, that number increased to over 17,500. The outpatient growth is dramatically more as technology and the desire for convenience has shifted care from long inpatient stays to the ambulatory setting. Palos Hospital treated about 14,500 outpatients in 1972. That number grew to over 196,000 in 2021.
Much has changed since those early days, but the soul of the hospital – an unwavering commitment to provide world class community-based health care – continues to burn brightly.
“As an Orland Park resident for almost 20 years, Palos has been our family’s community hospital. It is rewarding, both personally and professionally, to be a small part of bringing Northwestern Medicine’s Patients First mission and clinical excellence to this community,” said Jeff Good, president of Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital.
Vice President of Operations Trish Heerlein, RN, started at Palos Hospital as a high school student back in 1975, just three years after the hospital opened. She has held a variety of roles at Palos Hospital ever since. Reflecting on nearly 50 years at the hospital, Heerlein says the greatest change has been the increasing respect for nurses.
“It used to be top-down. The role of the nurse was to follow orders. Now, our staff nurses have extensive training and a role in critical decision making about patient care,” said Heerlein. “Our nurses are the patients’ advocates at the bedside and in the outpatient setting.”
Heerlein says Palos Hospital has always been a quiet giant on the hill focused on caring for the community. She is excited about the hospital’s future growth as part of Northwestern Medicine.
Some accomplishments since Palos Hospital joined Northwestern Medicine in January of 2021 include:
- Expansion of the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to Palos Hospital and construction on the cardiovascular “clinic of the future”;
- Established Neurology and Neurosurgery services at Palos Hospital, including a neuro-hospitalist service, and specialty care in a range of conditions. Work is underway to achieve Primary Stroke Center designation and develop a Neurointensive Care Unit;
- Began renovations for a regional ambulatory cancer center at the Orland Park campus;
- Opened a 48,000-square-foot ambulatory care enter in Mokena, bringing better access to primary, specialty and immediate care to local residents;
- Aligned quality metrics and standards for programs to maintain consistency with Northwestern Medicine;
- Deepened relationships with independent physician groups and strengthened alignment.
“Northwestern Medicine’s goal is to bring clinically excellent services closer to where people live and work. We want to expand the breadth and depth of clinical offerings to patients here in the southwest suburbs. At the same time, in those instances where the highest level of care is needed, we have a top tier, academic hospital in Northwestern Memorial Hospital as a referral center for our patients,” said Good.
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Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital Celebrates 50 Years