In 1909, a group of local businessmen known as the Commercial Club of Ladysmith determined the need for a hospital to serve the growing community's citizens. They began collecting money and appealed to the Catholic Bishop of Superior to find sisters to staff the proposed hospital. In 1909, the Commercial Club gifted ten acres to Catholic sisters provided that they build a hospital.
However, the Commercial Club faced a number of roadblocks that temporarily hampered their efforts. Among them, there were no Catholic sisters in Ladysmith in 1909, and thus, the Catholic bishop would not approve the gift and project proposal at that time.
The Servants of Mary Sisters arrived in Ladysmith on September 19, 1912 to staff the new St. Mary's Parochial School. The following year, the residents of Ladysmith spoke with the sisters about the need for a hospital.
In 1914, five acres of land on which the current hospital sits was obtained through a donation by John Lindoo. However, it was not until 1917 that the Articles of Incorporation were drawn and the work of raising funds began. A hospital fundraising committee was created and members included Mr. H. Ballou, treasurer and local manager of the Menasha Paper Co., Mr. F. I. Hughes, president of the State Bank of Glen Flora, and Mr. R. M. Sensenbrenner, secretary of the Menasha Paper Co. Construction of the hospital building began on June 13, 1917, and the new facility was dedicated on June 5, 1918.
The first administrators of the hospital were Sister Mary Alphonse, President; Sister Mary Boniface, Maintenance; and Miss Catherine Mackin, RN, Director of Nurses. Father Andrew Bauman attended to the spiritual care of the sick. The medical staff consisted of Doctor Bugher, Doctor Lundmark, Doctor O'Connor, Doctor Ross, and Doctor Stephenson, all of Ladysmith; Doctor Johnson of Bruce; and Doctor Davin of Weyerhaeuser.
During the flu epidemic of 1918, the staff did admirable work in caring for the sick. Rusk County raised funds to remodel the porches on each end of the hospital to care for isolation patients.
During the 1940s, one had only to walk through the crowded halls to realize the need for more space. Thus in 1947, an addition to the hospital increased its capacity to 75 beds plus a nursery. Improvements in other facilities, especially Maternity, Operating Room, X-ray and Laboratory Departments were made at this time as well.
In 1953, a new kitchen and a meeting room were added. In 1965, a fifty bed nursing home was built next door to the hospital with facilities for a larger and improved laundry and central heating plant.
In September 1973, Rusk County purchased St. Mary's Hospital and St. Joseph's on the Flambeau. The original hospital structure could not be approved for fire and safety standards and the Sisters were unable to finance reconstruction. After the purchase, the county tore down a portion of the 1917 structure and erected a new building adjacent to the Nursing Home.
The dedication of the new facility took place on May 9, 1976. A large number of area residents attended the dedication ceremony and toured the new facility. These events culminated almost three years to retain a hospital in the Ladysmith area.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, RCMH & NH began offering orthopedic outpatient surgical procedures through Dr. Peter Ihle. This service has since grown tremendously to include a wide range of medical specialties.
The hospital began offering helicopter transfers to tertiary medical centers in the late 1980's, and installed an on-site landing pad in 1990.
In April of 1991, RCMH's primary medical staff of Marshfield Clinic physicians transitioned to a new clinic facility adjacent to their former location in the hospital's Professional Building. The Professional Building now provides much-needed space for visiting specialists. The Cardiac Rehabilitation department was created in 1994 to meet the needs of the community.
In March of 2003, Rusk County Memorial Hospital obtained designation as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH). This CAH status ensured area residents access to sustainable quality health services by improving the financial performance of the hospital.
In the mid-1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, RCMH made many significant advancements in their imaging services. In 2006, the imaging department became the first site in the state to offer 100% Fuji film-less technology for all radiology imaging including general radiology, mammography, CT, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and MRI studies. A state-of-the-art 64-slice CT scanner was installed in the fall of 2008, allowing more complex cardiac studies to be preformed in the community and decreasing general survey scan times to about one minute for emergent situations.
A new cardiac telemetry monitoring system was installed in the Intensive Care Unit and added to Cardiac Rehab, the Emergency Room, and the Medical/Surgical Unit in the summer 2007. An electronic medical record system was implemented in November 2009 to increase portability of patient medical information and enhance patient safety.
In June of 2011, Rusk County Memorial Hospital installed a permanent MRI machine, allowing the hospital to offer full-time imaging services to patients.
After serving Rusk County and the surrounding areas as a joint facility for 40 years, Rusk County Memorial Hospital leased the nursing home to Ladysmith Care and Rehab in July 2013. The 50 bed facility is now located on the second floor of the Rusk County Memorial Hospital building as part of a five-year lease.
In the fall 2013, Rusk County Memorial Hospital's 130+ staff members, physicians, the Board of Trustees and strategic planning partners collaborated to update the organization's mission, vision and values statements. These guiding principles lead the hospital in their efforts to create a culture of exceptional care.
History assembled from the work of the following individuals:
- Sister Alice M. Henke, OSM
Ladysmith Community Archivist
- The record keepers of the Partners of Rusk County Memorial
- Many of the staff members of RCMH