History of the Largest Health System in Southeast Georgia: St. Joseph's/Candler

St. Joseph's/Candler is rich in history and heritage. Its anchor institutions, St. Joseph's Hospital and Candler Hospital, are two of the oldest continuously operating hospitals in the nation. As such, both have been a part of the Savannah landscape and culture for a combined history of more than 350 years. 

In addition, the  Georgia Infirmary and  Mary Telfair Women's Hospital - both historic in their own right - bring that service record to nearly 650 cumulative years.

In 1997, the two legendary hospitals and their various entities developed a joint operating agreement, creating the largest health system in Southeast Georgia and the South Carolina Low Country.

St. Joseph’s Hospital History

Old_StJosephs1St. Joseph's Hospital began in 1875 when the Sisters of Mercy took over the operations of the Forest City Marine Hospital in what is now the historic district. Since its inception, Savannahians have trusted the care, compassion and medical expertise that have become synonymous with the St. Joseph's name. It is a 330-bed, general acute care facility situated on Mercy Boulevard on Savannah's South side and is home to some of the most breakthrough medical technology and innovations. Specialty services at St. Joseph's include  The Heart HospitalThe Institute for Advanced Bone & Joint Surgery and the  Institute of Neurosciences, each offering unsurpassed space-age technology and expert clinical care.


1875-1876 - Responding to the plight of sick seamen, the Sisters of Mercy are contracted to operate the Forest City Marine Hospital. Better facilities and more space soon prompted a move to downtown Savannah. The hospital was renamed St. Joseph's Infirmary.

1901 - The hospital expanded (the Annex); the name became St. Joseph's Hospital.

1913 - The Flannery Memorial Wing opened.

1950s - St. John's Hall (the city's first psychiatric unit) and an obstetrical clinic for families with limited incomes opened.

1960-1970 - The Sisters of Mercy moved the hospital from its downtown location to the city's spacious South side, an area with high growth potential. The seven-story structure, situated on 28 acres, was dedicated on August 15, 1970.

1977 - Neuroscience opened its Oto-Neurology department, now known as the Center for Oto-Neurology.

1981-1990 - St. Joseph's opened the city's first Ambulatory Care Center.

1986 - Hospital surgeons won the right to perform open heart surgery at St. Joseph's.

1997 - St. Joseph's Hospital entered into a joint operating agreement with Candler Hospital and together formed St. Joseph's/Candler, the region's largest and most experienced health care provider.

Candler Hospital History

OldCandlerCandler Hospital is Georgia's first hospital (first chartered in 1804) and the second oldest continuously operating hospital in the United States. The beginnings of Candler Hospital's ministry of healing are closely associated with the history of medicine in the earliest days of the colony of Georgia. Located in Savannah's Midtown and affiliated with the Methodist Church, Candler has been long recognized as offering the finest in primary care, outpatient services, general surgery and women's and children's services. The 384-bed Candler is home to the  Mary Telfair Women's Hospital and the  Nancy N. and J.C Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, both renowned medical facilities offering some of the most advanced patient services in the country and has been a vital part of the Savannah community for more than eight generations.


1804-1872 - Georgia Colony's first hospital was founded for sick seamen in 1804. In 1808, it became incorporated and was named the Savannah Poor House and Hospital. The hospital was initially located in a private home on Joachin Street. In 1819, the hospital erected its first building. In 1872, the name was changed to Savannah Hospital.

1872-1888 - Savannah Hospital was headquarters for the Savannah Medical School and home to the city's first nursing school.

1930 - Savannah Hospital was acquired by the Georgia Hospital Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and renamed in honor of the Bishop, Warren A. Candler.

1960 - Candler Hospital joined forces with the longest operating women's hospital in the United States, the Telfair Hospital for Females. Created in 1886 through the estate of Mary Telfair, the hospital became Candler's obstetrical unit.

1980 - Candler Hospital moved to its current location on Reynolds Street. Believed to be the second-oldest general hospital in continuous operation in the United States, Candler Hospital has serviced more than nine generations of Savannah-area families.

1997 - Candler Hospital entered into a joint operating agreement with St. Joseph's Hospital and together formed St. Joseph's/Candler, the region's largest and most experienced healthcare provider.

St. Joseph's/Candler Health System History


1997 - Federal Trade Commission approves application for Joint Operating Agreement; in April, St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System is formed. 

1998 - Additional service lines are consolidated including Home Health agencies, Pediatric Services, and Laundry Services.

1998 - The Children’s Place at Candler Hospital opens.

1998 - Health System celebrated its first year of full operational cost savings.

1998 - St. Joseph’s/Candler established unique partnership with YMCA of Coastal Georgia to form YMCA Health Connection.

1998 - S.A.N.E. (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program formed at Candler Hospital to help preserve forensic evidence in sexual assault cases.

1998 - St. Joseph’s/Candler CareCall, a telephone health information/community resource and physician referral hotline, begins operations.

1999 - Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Center opens as part of Telfair Reproductive Care Center

1999 - Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, Southside YMCA and the Children’s Place To Be Fit opens in St. Joseph’s Hospital campus.

1999 - Meditech integrates patient clinical data system wide.

1999 - St. Joseph’s/Candler is named among the nation’s “Top 100 Integrated Health Systems” by Modern Healthcare magazine.

1999 - St. Joseph’s/ Candler opens African-American Health Information & Resource Center, a result of an ongoing commitment to improve the health of African-Americans in Chatham County.

1999 - St. Joseph’s/Candler became the only regional health system to receive national network accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

2000 - St. Mary’s Community Center opens at Culyer-Brownsville neighborhood as part of commitment to provide health and human services to area residents.

2000 - New website, www.sjchs.org, is launched to provide citizens with easy access to health information.

2001 - Center for WellBeing opens and enhances healthcare with integrative therapies.

2001 - St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Angles of Mercy named Volunteer Group of the Year by the United Way’s Volunteer Center.

2002 - “The Screen Machine”, a mobile cancer-screening vehicle, begins operations to reach local and outlying populations.

2002 - St. Joseph’s/Candler is awarded national recognition as a MAGNET designated facility for Excellence in nursing Services, becoming the only regional institution receiving such status and joining a select few in the United States with similar recognition.

2002 - Alaris Medley Medication Safety System implemented to support accuracy in patient safety.

2003 - St. Joseph’s/Candler Board of Trustees becomes self-perpetuating.

2003 - Health System launches new cancer initiative and unveil plans to construct new 56,000 square foot, freestanding cancer center.

2004 - St. Joseph’s/Candler is selected as a finalist for the American Hospital Association’s Foster G. McGaw Prize for excellence in community service- one of the industry’s most prestigious honors. The award recognizes an organization that provides innovative programs and services that promote the health and well-being of their communities.

2004 - Groundbreaking ceremony is held for new cancer facility across from Candler Hospital.

2004 - St. Joseph’s/Candler’s St. Mary’s Community Center receives Catholic Health Associations Highest Award for community outreach.

2005 - St. Joseph’s Hospital undergoes multi-million dollar expansion in technology and patient convenience. Construction begins on expanded services at The Heart Hospital.

2005 - Newly redesigned Heart Hospital opens on St. Joseph’s Campus.

2005 - In December, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion opens on Candler Campus and becomes the first freestanding outpatient cancer center in the region to consolidate patient services under one roof.

2006 - Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion becomes site of Georgia Cancer Coalition’s first demonstration project to improve quality of cancer care for all Georgians.

2006 - The Chest Pain Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital opens.

2007 - SJ/C Institute for Neurosciences at St. Joseph’s Hospital recognized with the Stroke Annual Performance Achievement Award for their success in the Get With The Guidelines program to improve quality of care for stroke patients.

2007 - SJ/C named Best Hospital in Georgia by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

2007 - The first da Vinci Surgical System arrives at St. Joseph’s Hospital, bringing robotic surgery to the Savannah region.

2007 - St. Joseph’s/Candler is chosen as the only Georgia site by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for a three-year NCI Community Cancer Centers Pilot Program, designed to help bring state-of-the-art-cancer care to patients in community hospitals across the United States.  

2008 - The  dedicated Neurological ICU unit opens a renovated, expanded unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

2008 - Project SEARCH begins at St. Joseph’s/Candler, a program that brings in Chatham County students with developmental disabilities to receive training and education from St. Joseph’s/Candler. This program continues to this day.

2009 - SJ/C begins the Stroke NET-Work program, making the health system a hub for virtual stroke healthcare to small Georgia towns such as Springfield and Vidalia. The program connects rural patients to Savannah neurologists for quicker treatment in their rural hospital. Today, the Stroke NET-Work includes partnerships with nine hospitals in the region.

2009 - The statute of St. Joseph’s in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital is restored and rededicated.

2010 - SJ/C receives the Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award from The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for meeting the Get With The Guidelines program improve quality care for stroke patients.

2011 - SJ/C and Georgia Health Sciences University open Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus. The new 1,600 square foot space will be a permanent home for the Ga. Health Sciences University students.

2011 - A $81,400 grant from the American Cancer Society was awarded to the LCRP to help break down the barriers that keep some women in the community from receiving mammograms.

2011 - Joint Commission survey is once again a success at both St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital.

2012 - SJ/C unveils new technology for Georgia Ports Employees. The Smart Health Express is a computerized medical kiosk that gives GPA employees the opportunity to measure or research nearly every aspect of their health from a convenient, on-site location.

2012 - St. Joseph’s/Candler is named the 2012 Large Hospital of the Year by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

2012 - St. Joseph’s/Candler was presented the Foster McGaw for Excellence in Community Service award. This nationally-recognized award is given to a healthcare organization that demonstrates incredible passion and commitments to making their community healthier.

2013 - SJ/C receives full accreditation as a Chest Pain Center. It’s the first in the region to do so from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

2014 - St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital are recertified with advanced certification as Primary Stroke Centers by The Joint Commission in conjunction with the American Heart Association.

2014 - The NCI selects the LCRP to partner with Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta to make sure more Georgians have access to clinical trials in their own cities.

2015 - SJ/C receives the Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award from The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for meeting the Get With The Guidelines program improve quality care for stroke patients.

2015 - For the fourth time, SJ/C has proven to provide the highest level of nursing care, earning The American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition.

2015 - The $15 million interior and exterior renovation is completed at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

2017 - iRound is introduced, which enhances the patient experience by allowing patients to provide feedback electronically right at the bedside using mobile devices.

2017 - SJ/C announces it is building a campus in Pooler to have a centralized location of services for that part of the county; groundbreaking begins in December.

2017 - The emergency department and outpatient surgery and imaging are renovated and rededicated at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

2017 - SJ/C announces it is building a campus in Bluffton to have a centralized location for oncology patients to bring cancer care closer to our patients in the Lowcountry.

2018 - Telfair BirthPlace is designated as a Baby-Friendly Facility. This recognition comes from Baby Friendly USA, the US authority for the implementation of The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

2019 - SJ/C’s Pooler Campus Opens, housing day surgery, primary care, physical therapy, urgent care, specialty practices and laboratory

2019 - The Heart Hospital awarded Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI from American College of Cardiology

2019 - SJ/C RN Residency Program Accredited by American Nurses Credentialing Center

2019 - SJ/C receives full recognition from the Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program

2019 - SJ/C partners with Georgia State Representative Carl Gilliard to open The Empowerment Center in Garden City

2020 - SJ/C’s Bluffton Campus at Buckwalter Place opens after Phase 1 completed, oncology services include radiation therapy, infusion therapy and medical oncology

2020 - Community Education and Health Screening Clinic opens at Beach High School through partnership between SJ/C and Savannah-Chatham County Public School System

2020 - The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recognizes both St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital with a Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

2020 - St. Joseph’s/Candler and Chatham Emergency Services (CES) strike partnership to house ambulances at strategic location: St. Joseph’s/Candler Urgent Care – Pooler location at 107 Canal Street

2020 - SJ/C President & CEO Paul P. Hinchey and Vice President of Human Resources Steve Pound receive awards from Savannah Chatham County Public School System for their leadership in the creation of the Community Education and Health Screening Clinic at Beach High School.

2020 - Mayor Johnson tours SJ/C’s operations during COVID-19; expresses his gratitude to all SJ/C co-workers for their crisis response

2020 -  SJ/C Physician Network, Endocrinology opens, answering significant need for endocrinology treatment in the area

2020 - Virtual SmartWomen Raises $137K For Telfair Mammography Fund

2020 - SJ/C Imaging Center – Bluffton Offers Open MRI

2020 - Upgraded Mobile Mammography Unit Includes 3D Capabilities

2021 - The Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion (LCRP) at St. Joseph’s/Candler partners with Liberty Regional Medical Center to create new oncology program In Hinesville, which will deliver the latest treatments to Liberty County cancer patients.

2021 - SJ/C Teams with Local Churches for Vaccine Distribution With Help from Georgia State Rep. Carl Gilliard and an advisory group of local faith leaders

2021 - SJ/C earns the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition for the fifth time. This fifth designation puts the health system into a small group of only 22 other hospitals in the world.

2021 - The Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s/Candler (LCRP) opens a new cancer treatment center in Pembroke in December 2021, making the latest oncology infusion treatments even more accessible to residents in that area as well as Statesboro and its surrounding communities.

2021 - St. Joseph’s/Candler’s new Urgent Care facility in Richmond Hill opens six weeks ahead of schedule.

2021 - Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter presents SJ/C President & CEO Paul P. Hinchey with an Architectural Excellence Award for Urgent Care facility

2021 - The Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion designated a Lung Cancer Screening Center by the American College of Radiology (ACR).

2021 - SJ/C Purchases Six Acres In North Bryan County

2022 - St. Joseph’s/Candler more than doubles its annual investment in the highly successful home ownership down payment assistance program with the City of Savannah this year, donating $40K

2022 - SJ/C’s Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion (LCRP) opens a new cancer treatment center in Statesboro, furthering its mission to bring oncology services closer to where many patients live.  Located on the campus of East Georgia Regional Medical Center, it is the only oncology infusion practice in Bulloch County.

2022 - St. Joseph’s Hospital awarded Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI based on rigorous onsite evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who have Acute Coronary Syndrome. The American College of Cardiology awards this designation to hospitals that have demonstrated expertise and commitment in treating patients with chest pain.

2022 - Pooler Campus installs da Vinci Xi Surgical System, the most advanced version of the technology.

2022 - Governor Brian P. Kemp appoints St. Joseph’s/Candler Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Sherry Danello to the newly-created Healthcare Workforce Commission.

2022 -St. Joseph’s/Candler partners with Savannah Technical College to create two innovative programs that provide employment, a full-time salary and free tuition to students while quickly developing them into healthcare professionals. These accelerated apprentice programs give students the opportunity to obtain Certified Nurse Aide or Patient Care Technician certifications while going to school and working shifts at SJ/C.

2022 -St. Joseph’s/Candler and Raydient Places + Properties announce strategic alliance to create a unique health and wellness initiative in Heartwood at Richmond Hill. One of the key features that SJ/C is bringing to the Heartwood community is the Bē Health & Well-Being initiative.

Georgia Infirmary

The Georgia Infirmary was the first hospital in the United States for African-Americans, as well as the first training center in the nation for African-American nurses. It opened its doors in Savannah in 1832. It also was the first Medicare-certified comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility. The Georgia Infirmary continues its rich history as part of the St. Joseph's/Candler Health System. The Georgia Infirmary is dedicated to helping elderly and physically disabled persons live as independently as possible. Georgia Infirmary programs are designed to help avoid or delay nursing facility placement, decrease hospitalizations and emphasize preventive health care. Learn more.

Mary Telfair Women's Hospital

Born in 1791, Mary Telfair was an independent spirit who valued beauty and truth. She came from a prominent family, the daughter of one of Georgia's governors. Never one for pretention, Mary devoted her life to helping others and was a keen intellect, interested in people, art and politics. In 1875, only a few days before her death, Mary placed a provision in her will that allowed for the erection of hospital dedicated to women's health. The Telfair Hospital for Females was built in 1884 and opened two years later. It was originally located at the southwest corner of Drayton and New Houston (now Park Avenue) streets. In 1960, it joined with Candler General Hospital and later moved into its current facility in midtown Savannah. Learn more about Mary Telfair and the Mary Telfair Women's Hospital.

About the Region

Savannah: The Home of St. Joseph's/Candler

lighthouse-entranceSavannah blends elegance and refinement with awe-inspiring landscapes and grand architecture that is centuries old. Its residents have a world-renowned reputation for Southern hospitality that is rare in modern times.

Founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, Savannah is Georgia's first city. The small settlement on the high bluffs of the Savannah River became America's 13th and final colony, and was named "Georgia," after England's then-ruling leader, King George II.

Oglethorpe designed the city in such a manner that allowed for open streets intertwined with moss-draped public squares and other open green spaces. Today, Savannah offers the largest historic district of its kind in the country and has become a model for urban planners from around the world.

A bustling port city and home to numerous national and international companies, Savannah offers a diverse economy suitable for business and family. As the commercial hub of Southeast Georgia and the coast, the city combines metropolitan living with that of a small town, steeped in southern atmosphere and heritage. 

For more information on Savannah and the surrounding area, please visit the Savannah Chamber of Commerce's website.

St. Joseph's/Candler Expansion into the Low Country

St. Joseph's/Candler has expanded to include facilities and services in the Low Country district of South Carolina, an area known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Low Country includes Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

Since the first permenant settlements appeared in the sea islands in the 1690's, the southern tip of South Carolina has been a source of culture, commerce, and history.

After the divisive period of the Revolutionary war to the defeat of the British around 1782, Low Country spent the next 80 years becoming a hub of agricultural prosperity with their cotton and rice crops.

Yacht ClubRobert Barnwell Rhett, the "Father of Secession," of Beaufort, South Carolina started his separatist movement in Bluffton in 1842. The Civil War haulted agricultural production in the Low Country, and though cotton recovered during the Reconstruction, agriculture never regained its original strength in the region. The area diversified its resources and continued to thrive.

Low Country has now become a central area of Southern culture, history and beauty.


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