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Mercy Medical History


In 1949, on the shores of Mobile Bay in Daphne, Alabama, the Sisters of Mercy founded Villa Mercy, now called Mercy Medical. Villa Mercy began as a convalescent home with the mission of continuing the healing ministry of Jesus by providing excellent and compassionate, holistic healthcare. Through their healing spirit and sense of social responsibility, the Sisters of Mercy have had a significant impact on the lives of people in South Alabama.

Founded by Catherine McAuley, the Sisters of Mercy originated in Dublin, Ireland in the mid-1800s to care for the poor, sick and uneducated. Today in sponsoring Mercy Medical, the Sisters hold the same high expectations in accomplishing with excellence the work of mercy for which their order was founded. Promoting a value system that the Sisters are jointly and individually committed, Mercy Medical today provides individuals opportunities for enhanced quality of life through the integration of medical management, rehabilitative services and home and community-based services. The history of the organization has proven to exemplify its mission.

In 1964, Villa Mercy opened a 54-bed nursing home and a decade later changed its emphasis to rehabilitation and therapy services, implementing aggressive medical and therapeutic interventions to enable patients to regain maximum functioning and optimal independence. One of its biggest contributions to the area came in 1979 when Villa Mercy pioneered hospice in South Alabama. The hospice movement in the United States had its roots in the work of British physician Dame Cicely Saunders who brought the subject of dying to the forefront. She explored ways to improve the process of dying and shed light on the needs of patients during this important passage. Most importantly the hospice movement brought awareness of care for terminally ill people and their families. It wasn't until the 80s that Congress created legislation establishing Medicare coverage for hospice care. Today Mercy Hospice uses the latest practices and technologies to minimize pain and manage symptoms, while emphasizing patients' wishes, comfort and quality of life.

In 1981, Villa Mercy home health services began in Baldwin and Mobile counties. The Sisters of Mercy were once called "walking nuns" as they were the first in Ireland to go out from their convents to visit and care for the sick at home. Home care helped many homebound people in the community receive specialized nursing care and therapies, under the supervision of their own physician.

The organization changed its name in 1987 to Mercy Medical and also added assisted living to its offerings. In 1989, Mercy Medical received licensure as an acute rehabilitation hospital with 25 beds. Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital became the only licensed acute rehabilitation hospital in Baldwin County and included skilled nursing units and therapy services. Mercy Medical also opened Mercy Medical Mobile, a 20-bed skilled nursing unit on Dauphin Street, in Mobile, Ala., and added assisted living communities and lifecare retirement communities to its continuum of care.

In response to the growing need for specialized pediatric care, Mercy's Pediatric Home Care program began in 1998. Since that time, Mercy has served more than two thousand critically or terminally ill children in Mobile and Baldwin counties. It is one of the only programs in the area that solely focuses on delivering home healthcare, palliative care and hospice care to children. This level of specialty care allows critically ill children to remain at home where they can be surrounded by family and friends. This is especially important for pediatric hospice patients. Mercy provides care to any child in need, no matter of their family's ability to pay. Because Medicaid or private insurance doesn't always cover many pediatric home care services, sometimes more than 70 percent of these costs are funded through Guardian Angel, a Mercy fundraising program.

Also in 1998, Catholic Health East (CHE) was founded when Allegany Health System, Eastern Mercy Health System, and Sisters of Providence Health System combined legally and operationally to strengthen the role and identity of the Catholic health ministry in the eastern United States. Mercy Medical became one of its members. CHE serves as a vehicle for sponsors to maintain the Catholic identity of their sponsored health ministries and ensure the continued vitality of their mission of compassionate service. The system includes acute care hospitals, long-term acute care hospitals, freestanding and hospital-based long-term care facilities, assisted-living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, behavioral health and rehabilitation facilities, home health/hospice agencies, and numerous ambulatory and community-based health services located within 11 eastern states from Maine to Alabama.

Foreseeing a need for an Alzheimer's and dementia center on the Gulf Coast, in 2004 Mercy opened its $3.6 million John McClure Snook Regional Center, a 64-bed, 30,500-sq. ft. regional facility, architecturally designed for the Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Broadening its memory care program, in 2005 Mercy Medical in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, launched Project Lifesaver, the nation's most effective program for locating and rescuing individuals with Alzheimer's, dementia, autism or other mental disabilities who wander and are missing. Today, Project Lifesaver is available through Mercy in both Baldwin and Mobile counties.

In January of 2010, Mercy Medical shifted its focus towards home and community-based services, and began the first of several divestitures. Mercy sold Mercy Medical Mobile, its skilled nursing and rehabilitation center and the adjoining assisted living facility on Dauphin Street. The next year to follow, Mercy announced the sale of its corporate campus that included its Rehabilitation Hospital and skilled nursing facility, and administration building along with the sale of its Baldwin County assisted living and independent communities that included The Snook Center, Catherine and Carroll Place, and The Hamlet. These divestitures positioned Mercy Medical to pioneer Alabama's first PACE program called Mercy LIFE of Alabama, while better serving the people of Mobile and Baldwin counties through Mercy's renowned home and community based services. PACE, Program of All-inclusive Care of the Elderly, is a unique capitated managed care benefit for the frail. The PACE program features a comprehensive medical and social service delivery system using an interdisciplinary team approach in an adult day health center that is supplemented by in-home and referral services in accordance to the participant's needs. In order to be eligible for PACE a person must be aged 55 or older, eligible for nursing home care, and live in an area served by a PACE program.

In January 1, 2012, Mercy LIFE, Alabama's first PACE program, opened its doors. PACE has been proven successful in integrating Medicare and Medicaid funding and services in a manner which leads to good outcomes for the segment of the dual eligible beneficiary population with the most complex social and health care needs.

Today, Mercy Medical continues its healing ministry through Home Care, Hospice, Portier Place and PACE. Through PACE, Mercy serves the frailest older adults requiring nursing home level of care. PACE is at the heart of Mercy's core values.

Embracing the values of the Sisters, Mercy Medical has enriched the lives of so many people in the region for decades. Mercy Medical's rich history reflects innovations characterized by a creative response to the needs of our community, and the needs of our poor, frail and underserved. Faith-based and mission-driven, Mercy Medical continues the healing ministry of Jesus in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy.