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SJHH / About/ Get To Know St. Joe's/ Our History

Our History


Our History

Every day, our patients and their families share with us how their care at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton met their physical, mental, social, and often spiritual needs. While our history is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, our people reflect the best of Canada’s multicultural, multi-faith and diverse community. Regardless of faith or culture, the one characteristic our people share is a deep belief in the values of our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton instilled in our organization: that it is an honour to serve – and in particular to ensure that those most vulnerable and marginalized have access to compassionate, high quality care. 

Living the Legacy

The first Sisters came to Hamilton in 1852 and began to work for the poor and needy residents of this growing and important trade centre. For the Sisters, it was an honour to serve others, and, with the onset of a cholera epidemic, the Sisters health care mission began in earnest. Working in railway sheds near the Hamilton harbour, they risked their lives to care for the sick and dying victims of the deadly disease.

In 1890 the Sisters moved closer to their vision of a modern and progressive system of health care with the opening of a 25-bed hospital located on John Street in Hamilton.

And so begins the Story of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

The 20th Century saw many advances for St. Joseph’s including the opening of the Nursing School in 1911 and a partnership with McMaster University and its groundbreaking new Medical School in 1969. Advances in technology and the appointment of legendary clinical and scientific leaders complemented the strongly embedded mission of caring St. Joe’s is now known for. By the end of the century, many further achievements had been realized including the founding of the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health and the creation of the Father Sean O’Sullivan Research Centre. Canada’s first hospital-sponsored Ambulatory Centre was also founded during this time and the former Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital (now the West 5th Campus) was welcomed into the St. Joseph's Healthcare family. 

Today, St. Joseph's Healthcare spends approximately half-a-billion dollars every year bringing the most advanced clinical care, programs and services to hundreds of thousands of patients at three major campuses. We train thousands of students to care for future generations, and more than four hundred highly skilled research staff bring new discoveries and new hope to patients around the world. 

Over the course of 150 years of advances, the people of St. Joseph's Healthcare have held fast to the values that define our culture – living the legacy of our founders, and leaving lasting impressions on those we are honoured to serve. 

St. Joseph's Healthcare is honoured to be a partner in one of the largest corporations in Canada devoted to health care, the St. Joseph’s Health System. Fellow members include: