Mercy Hospital is the only Catholic hospital in the Portland area, but it serves all denominations. The hospital is part of a vast complex of buildings, offices, and treatment centers spread out in the West End of Portland.
The origins of Mercy Hospital can be traced back to the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918, when Bishop Louis S. Walsh asked the Sisters of Mercy to help care for the sick and dying. Portland was greatly affected by the pandemic, which resulted in the deaths of millions around the world. Masses were held in the open air, usually in the school grounds. Every other house had a black wreath on the door. Largely due to the vision of local Irish-American surgeon Dr. Louis A. Derry, the Diocese purchased 681 Congress Street, former home of noted surgeon Dr. Stephen Weeks, and turned it into a hospital. It was opened December 12, 1918, and named Queen’s Hospital, after Mary, Queen of Heaven. The first patient admitted was Miss Delia McDonough.
Queen’s Hospital served several generations of Portlanders before it was superseded by Mercy Hospital during World War II. Queen’s had moved to 144 State Street in 1941 and in 1943 the first phase of a new, larger hospital was completed. The Diocese of Portland had officially transferred the hospital to the Sisters of Mercy in 1941. Mercy Hospital was born.
An 8-story wing was added in 1950 and was ready for occupancy in October 1951. It was estimated to cost $1,450,000. The following year, a secret benefactor gave the hospital $500,000 towards the wing. In February 1953, Bishop Feeney, and the Rev. Mother M. Evangelist Ward, superior of the Sisters of Mercy of Maine, announced that the benefactor was James Augustine Healy and his wife Josephine. Healy grew up in Portland, the son of Irish immigrants, and had made a fortune on Wall Street. The new wing was christened the “John and Catherine Healy Memorial Wing.”
In November 1959, Mercy Hospital opened the first birth recovery room in Maine. A few months earlier, Mercy officials had decided that the hospital would establish a 24-hour anesthesia service. When Dr. Francis X. Mack, director of the Mercy department of anesthesiology, was consulted on the matter, he recommended the recovery room, as well as a room for Caesarean deliveries.
In 1982, Mercy underwent a $19.8 million dollar expansion and renovation project. Nineteen years later the hospital had definitely outgrown itself again and it was announced that Mercy was acquiring a 40-acre site on the Fore River, near Interstate 295. By February 2005, the hospital had received state regulatory approval for the hospital complex, estimated to cost $160 million dollars. Mercy has come along way since the days at the old Queens!