Missouri State Sanatorium

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Missouri State Sanatorium
Opened 1907
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Mt. Vernon, MO
Alternate Names
  • Missouri Rehabilitation Center
  • University of Missouri Health Care (Current)


Missouri Rehabilitation Center was originally established as the Missouri State Sanatorium in 1907 to treat tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB), also known as the "White Plague," was a major health problem. A diagnosis of tuberculosis often meant impending death and the only known treatment for it was fresh air, sunshine, nutrition and bed rest. To keep the disease from spreading, patients were isolated from society. Thus the Missouri Legislature appropriated $50,000 to establish a sanatorium.

A board of five people was appointed to build a brick or stone facility, capable of future enlargement, at a site at least 1,000 feet above sea level. Chigger Hill in Mt. Vernon met all the requirements. The site had available water, an abundance of shade trees, and was adaptable to support agricultural and dairy needs. To secure its selection, the city offered the state approximately 60 acres of land, a cash donation of $3,000. The city agreed to furnish water, electricity and telephone service for the first five years. The first building, Gupton Villa, was erected at a cost of $20,000. The first patient was admitted Aug. 17, 1907.

The plan called for a total of 12 buildings to be grouped in the form of a Maltese cross, eight of the buildings were to house patients with the remaining ones to be used for administration and support services. Diagnosis of tuberculosis took six to eight weeks and because there were no medications to treat the disease, patients confined to the sanatorium spent months or years away from home. Reinfection was common and often necessitated a return to the hospital.

Drugs were developed in the 1950's that effectively controlled tuberculosis. Patients were able to go home sooner and were usually able to be treated in their local communities. Since that time, drug therapy and diagnostic techniques have become even more efficient. Diagnosis has been shortened from six weeks to as little as a few days. This meant the census of the hospital began to decline. Fewer people had to come to Mt. Vernon for treatment and those who did went home sooner. The old system of housing patients in eight different locations changed. By 1970, the six-story Hearnes building had been erected to bring all patients under one roof. All but one of the original patient buildings was subsequently demolished.

Coinciding with the decline in tuberculosis came an increase in other lung diseases, brought on by a larger population and a greater acceptance of and increase in smoking. The Missouri Sanatorium, with its emphasis on care of lung patients, was the logical place for establishing a facility for the treatment of chest diseases.

In 1971, the Missouri General Assembly expanded the mission of the institution to include all types of cardiac and pulmonary problems, including emphysema, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, COPD and others. The name was changed to Missouri State Chest Hospital. Again, modern medicine shortened the length of stay needed to care for these diseases.

Re-admissions were reduced through the implementation of a respiratory rehabilitation program which taught patients to care for themselves at home. Patients learned to recognize problems before they developed into a crisis. The hospital was able to send patients home who would have been destined to remain in the hospital for the rest of their lives because of ventilator dependence. A significant number of patients were weaned from the ventilator, even though they had been deemed unweanable by other institutions; many had been on ventilators for a long time.

In cases where weaning was not practical, families were trained in the care of their loved ones in order to go home for short periods of time or be discharged altogether. These factors, and new regulations put into effect by medicare, Medicaid and private insurances, brought about a decline in census similar to the decline experienced by other hospitals throughout the nation. In order to make use of its space, the hospital opened an outpatient clinic and an inpatient hospice program.

In 1983 the Mount Vernon Veterans Home was established in a three-story wing of Brasher Building of the Missouri State Chest Hospital. The Veterans Home was created to provide 24-hour nursing care for veterans whose medical problems include Alzheimer’s disease and service-related lung problems. (Source: "Two Area Veterans are Home's First Residents", Springfield News-Leader May 13, 1983).

The Missouri General Assembly again changed the facility's name and mission. This time, it would answer the needs of those who were seriously impaired through accident or injury and who had capacity for improvement through extensive rehabilitation. General physical rehabilitation was begun in late 1985 and the center opened its traumatic brain injury (TBI) program in January, 1986. The program has grown to be the largest in the state. Several components were added including a transitional living unit, a behavior modification unit and a program for comprehensive substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation program (CSTAR). An outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program was opened in 1989. In 1990, the center rented space to the Veterans Administration for an outpatient clinic to be operated as a satellite of the VA Hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The clinic contracts with the Missouri Rehabilitation Center to provide services which included laboratory, radiology, maintenance and housekeeping.

In 1996, the Missouri General Assembly transferred ownership of Missouri Rehabilitation Center to the University of Missouri Health Care. The merger with the University of Missouri Health Care was necessitated by a competitive HMO-dominated health care market. Missouri Rehabilitation Center has benefited significantly from their affiliation with the University of Missouri. MRC is now a center of excellence, offering the finest health care available. Through the use of technology, telemedicine, research and education, the citizens of missouri are the direct beneficiaries of this growth. Physicians now have the ability to provide live medical consultations via interactive television -- without transferring the patient from the hospital.

A new state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit was opened in the summer of 2001. The new ICU has two distinct benefits. It provides expanded space that will allow the Center to accept more acute rehabilitation patients, and it allows medical staff to start rehabilitation efforts sooner.


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