By The Johnson County Museum
(Part 3 of 3)
Johnson County is fortunate today to be home to many outstanding hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities. But this was not always the case. In thinking about how much health has been in the news with the COVID-19 pandemic, this three-part blog series will explore the history of healthcare in Johnson County. Note: healthcare refers to a system of doctors, clinics, and hospitals, while health care refers to the treatments of those providers and the things people do to address their health.
From the 1850s to 1934, healthcare in Johnson County had transformed from house calls by “horse and buggy” doctors to hospital visits. Over the course of the second half of Johnson County’s history, access to medical care, like the county’s population, exploded. What began with the establishment of a three-bed hospital, Reece Hospital, in Gardner in 1934 had expanded to include the Olathe Community Hospital in 1953, Shawnee Mission Hospital and Gardner Community Medical Center in 1961, and Olathe Medical Center in 1968. By the end of the century, as the county’s population skyrocketed to nearly 500,000 people, Johnson County would be home to five additional hospitals and medical centers. These large facilities, along with smaller clinics and doctor’s offices located throughout Johnson County, provide essential services for people throughout the region and contribute to the overall quality of life in Johnson County.
Johnson County’s Largest Medical Center to Date
Between 1968 when Olathe Medical center opened and 1976, Johnson County’s population grew by 50,000 people. The increasing population prompted Humana Healthcare to build Johnson County’s largest medical center to date. Located at I-435 and Quivira, the new Suburban Medical Center included a staggering 400 beds when it opened in 1976.
In 1984, the Suburban Medical Center expanded to include the Women’s Center, the first medical facility in Johnson County dedicated specifically to the care of women. Women from around the region relied on the Women’s Center for regular health checks, pre-natal appointments, and to birth a new generation of Johnson Countians.
Today the Suburban Medical Center is called the Overland Park Regional Medical Center. In addition to a women’s clinic, its main campus at 10500 Quivira Road in Overland Park includes a Cardiac Rehabilitation and Diabetes Center and The Human Motion Institute.
Care for Children
In 1987, Children’s Mercy Hospital located its new medical offices in Johnson County. Six years later, the hospital opened the Surgicenter in Overland Park, which provided emergency medical and planned surgeries for some of the youngest residents of Johnson County and neighboring areas. In 1997, the hospital’s centennial, Children’s Mercy South opened on West 110th Street. In 2004, the hospital expanded again, adding more than 140,000-square feet in a second hospital tower. Today, Children’s Mercy also has a facility in Blue Valley.
A Kansas City Transplant
In 1989, Menorah Medical Center relocated from its Kansas City location at 49th Street and Rockhill Road, where it had operated since 1931. The new 60,000-square foot facility stood at the border of two Johnson County cities, Leawood and Overland Park. In 2005, Menorah Medical Center in Johnson County expanded to 158 beds. Since that time, Menorah Medical Center has grown several times, including the addition of the Ambulatory Surgery Center.
Healthcare in the Nineties
Johnson County’s population grew by 321,727 people or more than 965% from 1940 until 1990. Between 1980 and the end of the century, population grew by another 28%. That’s nearly another 100,000 Johnson Countians in just 20 years. The sustained population boom drew additional hospitals to a county that started the century with no formal health care.
One of Kansas City’s largest hospitals, St. Luke’s, opened a Johnson County location as St. Luke’s South in 1998 at 12300 Metcalf in Overland Park. In the early 2000s, the site underwent a massive renovation, including a 92,000-square foot addition. Today the facility has a strong reputation for cardiology and has expanded as the residential area to its south continues to develop. St. Luke’s also has facilities in Olathe and Roeland Park, creating a Johnson County system.
As the century drew to a close, University of Kansas Hospital opened a Johnson County location. Called KU MedWest, the facility opened at I-435 and Midland Drive in Shawnee in 1999. This location serves the western portion of the Johnson County, as well as the communities of Leavenworth, Lansing, and Lawrence. Eight years later in 2007, the University of Kansas Hospital – Westwood Campus opened at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Rainbow Boulevard. The facility includes a 55,000-square foot cancer center and the Midwest Prostate Center.
These large hospitals and the larger healthcare systems in Johnson County today provide comprehensive care with access to urgent care clinic facilities, hospitals with in- and out-patient, surgery, pharmacy, and specialist services. Several major hospitals, eyeing Johnson County’s growing population, purchased sites along the K-10 corridor in the early 2000s. These include Olathe Medical Center, the Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and St. Luke’s Medical Center. Their expansion plans are based both on population movement westward as well as an aging population in Johnson County.
From doctors traversing unpaved roads to reach farms at the far corners of the county to the emergence of major medical centers serving huge populations in the very places that once seemed remote, the healthcare industry in Johnson County has changed dramatically since the county was founded in 1855. Perhaps the most lasting lesson that emerges from reviewing 165 years of healthcare history in Johnson County is that the industry develops to meet the needs of the community.
As we look forward to the future healthcare needs of the community, it is important to look back as well. As a large post-war suburban community, Johnson County has a huge population of Baby Boomers. Last year, close to 33% of Johnson County’s population was over the age of 50, with one in five over the age of 60. Next year, the first Baby Boomers will reach the age of 75. Additionally, Johnson County’s population is continuing to grow—it is expected to surpass 600,000 in the 2020 census. The combination of a growing and aging population will require that healthcare continues to respond to the needs of Johnson County’s changing population in order for the county to thrive.