St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea celebrates 50 years in the community

CHELSEA – Today St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea celebrates 50 years of serving the Chelsea community.  The hospital, which first opened its doors on September 21, 1970, has grown significantly in recent years, moving from an independent hospital to a member of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, to a joint venture between Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and Michigan Medicine.

“Despite our rapid growth, our mission and core values remain the same as the first day we opened,” said Nancy Graebner, president of St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea.  “We are a steadfast presence in our community, committed to serving the medical needs of those most vulnerable, while providing them with high-quality, compassionate care.”

The history of St. Joe’s Chelsea began in the 1960’s when Dr. Michael Papo co-founded the Chelsea Medical Clinic.  The clinic sought to ensure that Chelsea, an underserved, rural community, had access to quality health care.  The clinic eventually led to the creation of a full-service acute care hospital, Chelsea Community Hospital, despite being located in a small community surrounded by two large health systems.

“We would be remiss if we did not recognize the many accomplishments of Will Johnson, Chelsea Community Hospital’s first CEO,” said Graebner.  “Will’s steady hand guided this small community hospital during its infancy and his contributions are many.  After Will’s retirement, Kathleen Griffiths took over the helm as CEO and continued to successfully implement new services and programs.  I am truly blessed to follow in the footsteps of these two great leaders who preceded me.”

Major milestones in the history of St. Joe’s Chelsea:

  • September 21, 1970: Chelsea Community Hospital opens with acute care beds
  • June 3, 1974: Ambulatory surgery center opens
  • 1974: Inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse care opens with six patient beds
  • November 21, 1974: Six-bed critical care/ intensive care unit opens
  • 1976: Ambulatory surgery center becomes a part of the hospital
  • 1978: Head Pain program launches
  • July 1978: University of Michigan launches Family Medicine Teaching Service
  • 1980: Therapy wing, Inpatient Rehab program, radiology space and dining facilities open
  • 1992: Surgery, Diagnostic Imaging and Lab spaces expand
  • Nov. 2002: Surgery Department expands and opens a fifth operating room
  • 2006: Professional Office Building opens
  • 2009: Becomes part of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and its parent organization Trinity Health
  • December 9, 2012: Grand opening of Atrium hospital building with new ER and private patient rooms, therapy and radiology space
  • 2014: Hospital name changes to St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea
  • 2015: 15,000 square foot Cancer Center opens
  • July 1, 2018: Hospital becomes a joint venture hospital between Michigan Medicine and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
  • January 2019: Bariatric surgery program launches
  • September 2019: Seventh operating room opens and robotic surgery program launches
  • May 2020: Eighth operating room opens

“Much has changed over the years, but so much is still the same,” said Renee Geer, a current St. Joe’s Chelsea colleague who has worked in the hospital for 46 years.  “The hospital still has its small town feel even though it has grown substantially.  Even as faces come and go, the way people treat each other hasn’t changed.”

After 50 years of growth and accolades for patient safety, satisfaction and quality, St. Joe’s Chelsea is planning for the future.  The 2018 joint venture, formed between Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and Michigan Medicine, has ensured close collaboration between two large health care systems, and today that strategy is bringing new services, physicians and opportunities to the Chelsea community.

In the past year alone, St. Joe’s Chelsea has credentialed more than 100 new doctors and now has a medical staff of approximately 750 physicians.  A staff of roughly 1,000 employees has discharged more than 5,000 patients, completed 8,000 surgeries, and compassionately managed 20,000 visits to the Emergency Department.

In addition, the hospital introduced bariatric and robotic surgery in 2019, while dramatically increasing its urology services.  Plans are already underway for expanded opportunities for plastic surgery, endocrinology, orthopedic surgery and general surgery.

About St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea
St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea (SJMC) is a not-for-profit joint venture hospital, whose partners are Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, a member of national Catholic health care system Trinity Health based in Livonia, Mich., and Michigan Medicine, the academic medical center of the University of Michigan.  Founded in 1970, SJMC is nationally recognized for both quality of care and patient satisfaction by several national ranking organization including Press Ganey, and is accredited by the Joint Commission.  SJMC employs more than 1,200 individuals with a medical staff of approximately 750 physicians.  Key services include robust medical and surgical service lines, including an intensive care unit, eight operating rooms including robotic surgery, a 24-hour emergency department and senior emergency room, a state-of-the-art cancer center, a 24 bed inpatient rehabilitation unit, a comprehensive head pain treatment unit and both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services.

For additional information about SJMC, please visit

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