The Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital opened its doors to patients with much fanfare on Friday, Feb. 2, 1917. An open house the previous day attracted some 5,000 people to tour what one newspaper called one of “the most modern and best-equipped institutions in the south.”
It was truly a community effort that led to its construction, with Bexar County and the city of San Antonio each contributing half of its $250,000 cost to build. And when it was found that not enough money was left to properly furnish and equip the new hospital, Alexander Joske, owner of Joske’s Department Store, donated more than $15,000 for its surgical and clinical rooms.
While it was conceived and founded as a hospital to serve the poor, it was apparent early on that the Green would care for the entire community. Dr. H. Philip Hill, the hospital’s first superintendent, explained to the Board of Managers in 1919: “Not only the needy and poor have benefited by the existence of the Hospital, but some of our citizens who are more fortunate in possession of this world’s goods have been materially helped in our emergency operating room and made well in the hospital after meeting with an accident, they finding the County and City Hospital ready to serve the public at all times.”
But the years that followed that promising start were rocky. Funding was uncertain, the medical needs were great and the Great Depression sapped the community’s resources. The Green struggled, lacking the funds to keep up its facilities and equipment. In 1947, the Robert B. Green closed its doors for a time, leaving open only a badly needed polio ward and a cancer ward — both funded by private charities.
The Green would reopen the next year, but it continued to struggle. Finally, in 1955, Bexar County voters overwhelmingly approved creation of the Bexar County Hospital District and a property tax to fund it,
making it one of the first hospital districts in Texas. Bexar County Commissioners approved its budget and appointed its Board of Managers.
In 1959, after years of communitywide efforts to bring a medical school to San Antonio, state lawmakers approved the construction of The University of Texas Medical School in San Antonio with the stipulation that a new, state-of-the-art teaching hospital be built next to the school.
In 1965, construction began on the $15 million Bexar County Hospital — known today as University Hospital. Both were completed in 1968, affirming University Health System’s role in teaching future generations of healthcare professionals.
“AS UNIVERSITY HEALTH SYSTEM LOOKS AHEAD TO THE NEXT 100 YEARS, WE REMAIN COMMITTED TO HEALING, ADVANCING KNOWLEDGE AND DISCOVERY, AND PROMOTING THE GOOD HEALTH OFTHE COMMUNITY.”
University Health System today includes more than two dozen primary care, specialty, preventive and school-based health centers throughout the community, including the Robert B. Green Campus — a multi-specialty outpatient center which includes a striking six-story clinical building that opened in 2013 alongside the original historic building. University Hospital still serves as the primary teaching facility for UT Health San Antonio. In 2014, the million-square-foot Sky Tower was completed, providing one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced clinical facilities in the world for children and adults.
Both the Clinical Pavilion and Sky Tower were made possible with the approval by Bexar County Commissioners of a bond sale to fund the $899 million Capital Improvement Project that would position University Health System to meet current and future needs. Commissioners this year approved a new phase of expansion that includes a Women and Children’s Tower to be built alongside the Sky Tower.
As University Health System looks ahead to the next 100 years, we remain committed to healing, advancing knowledge and discovery, and promoting the good health of the community. And above all, we strive to be compassionate professionals, fostering a culture of excellence and treating all who enter our doors with kindness and respect.