On November 5, 1918, a small, 50-bed community hospital named Orange General Hospital opened its doors to Central Florida. The hospital opened with two of its four floors completed, one functioning operating room and no gas, electricity or air conditioning. Over the next decade, Orange General continued to add physicians and specialties to its services, growing alongside the city of Orlando. By the early 1940’s Orange County was home to more than 70,000 residents and Orange General was at capacity every day. The hospital converted the dining hall into 15 patient rooms. The hospital also replaced a two-story wing with a new four-story wing with 34 rooms, one operating room and more space for wards. By 1945, Orange General had become the third largest private hospital in the state. Originally built to hold 100 beds, the hospital now held 263 beds and bassinets. The hospital board approved a massive $1 million building project to expand the hospital, but it was impossible to raise the funds needed. In 1946, the hospital changed its name from Orange General Hospital to Orange Memorial Hospital. This would be the first of many name changes. In 1948, the hospital created Florida’s second Cancer Control Clinic, where patients were seen by a six-doctor committee.
1950s - 1980s
In 1951, Orange Memorial Hospital was designated one of Florida’s first teaching hospitals by the American Medical Association. The designation as a teaching hospital was, and continues to be a big draw for physicians. Many projects that began in the 1950’s were completed in 1962 when the new A & B wings were finished. This project brought the bed count at Orange Memorial to 600. The expansion added new maternity areas, laboratory and pharmacy departments, additional surgical suites, a recovery room and a central supply area. In 1964, the hospital created the first “Cardiac Arrest Team,” to respond to cardiac emergencies. In 1967, the C wing was completed, bringing the total number of beds to 800. Classrooms and a new 320-seat auditorium were also added. In the early 1970’s, the hospital saw an increased need for specialized equipment to care for babies weighing less than 3 lbs at birth, or “neonates” as they were called at the time. Thanks to significant financial support, Orange Memorial opened one of only six regional neonatal intensive care units in Florida. In 1975, an $8.5 million expansion project added outpatient surgery facilities, a 40,000 square foot outpatient rehabilitation building, multilevel parking garage, the Central Florida Radiation Center and renovated the existing physical plant. The hospital had grown from a small, one-building facility into a major metropolitan hospital, serving hundreds of thousands of Central Florida residents. In 1977 the hospital would again change its name, this time to Orlando Regional Medical Center. The new hospital name was also became the company name, as Orange Memorial Hospital and Holiday Hospital consolidated to form one company, Orlando Regional Medical Center, Inc. The building that Arnold Palmer Hospital now resides in was formerly Holiday Hospital. The newly consolidated hospitals quickly began to focus on updating their facilities and services, including adding linear accelerators, a CT Scanner, and opened the new ORMC Emergency Department, nearly tripling the number of emergency beds.
ORMC was designated a regional trauma center in 1981 and won approval to install a helipad on the roof. Before that, the helicopters would land on Orange Avenue in front of the emergency entrance, blocking traffic. In 1982, ORMC again restructured and established the Orlando Health Network, Inc. This holding company was an umbrella for Orlando Regional Medical Center, the ORMC Foundation and Healthnet Services, Inc. ORMC remained the flagship of the new parent company. The ORMC emergency department was quickly gaining notoriety and in 1983, ORMC was designated a Level I Trauma Center. Following this designation, ORMC developed the Air Care Team helicopter rescue service. The Air Care Team has continued to be a life-saving resource and asset to the Central Florida Area. Throughout the 1980’s, ORMC continued to develop as a world-class teaching hospital, and by 1987, had developed affiliations with 40 universities and community colleges. One significant affiliation was with the University of Florida College of Medicine. The resulting affiliation allowed an exchange of residents, faculty and senior medical students, and highlighted ORMC’s academic credibility and strength as a teaching institution.
ORMC Enters the Digital Age
Advancements in technology allowed ORMC to continue to add treatments and services that were “firsts” for the nation. Computers were playing a more integral part in patient care and were beginning to change the outcomes of many illnesses. In 1984 ORMC welcomed SARA, which stands for “System for Anesthetic and Respiratory Analysis. SARA is a sophisticated monitoring system that regulates the levels of anesthetic gases used during surgery. Another major advancement benefitted ORMC’s NICU was the introduction of ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) treatment in 1989. This specialized technique drastically increased the chance of survival for very sick and premature babies. Also in 1989, ORMC became one of only 10 U.S. hospitals to use the Nuclear Medicine Imaging system, which used radioactive isotopes for rapid, accurate, three-dimensional views of the body.
In May 1991, ORMC began the biggest expansion project to date. The remainder of the original 1918 hospital building was demolished, along with 8 other buildings on the campus. A total of 306,000 square feet of new space was built and other buildings on the campus were renovated to meet a more modern standard. Nearly every major department at ORMC was rebuilt, including the emergency department, surgical suites, laboratory, radiology, intensive care unit and cardiac care unit. The construction added a 235,000 square foot, four-story tower to ORMC that increased the number of operating rooms from 14 to 19. The Level I Emergency/Trauma Center increased from 26 to 41 patient stations in a 23,000 square foot area. The Trauma Suite was expanded to handle up to six patients at a time in the event of large scale traumas. The Pharmacy was doubled in size to 7,000 square feet and a pneumatic tube system was installed to connect critical care areas, the pharmacy and the Lab.
In an effort to becoming the premier medical centers in the Southeast, ORMC instituted an “Operational Excellence” program designed to trim costs by $32 million over three years. ORMC also surveyed the community to measure the impression of nearly every aspect of the hospital. The results of that survey in 1992 led ORMC to change the corporate name to Orlando Regional Healthcare System (ORHS). ORMC would now be the flagship medical center under the ORHS corporate umbrella. The company continued its technological shift in 1994 by transferring clinical information to a computerized system. The system connected each hospital that is part of ORHS and allowed data from one hospital to be accessed by clinical staff at another ORHS hospital.
Building for the Future
In 2008, Orlando Regional Healthcare, ORMC's parent company, was renamed Orlando Health. In 2009, it was announced that Lucerne Hospital, a smaller independent hospital within Orlando Health, would become the Lucerne Pavilion, a part of ORMC. The separate buildings now form one hospital. Also in 2009, Orlando Health announced one of the largest expansion projects to date, the expansion of ORMC. The new construction and renovation will help consolidate clinical services and lay a foundation for future development around the hospital. The anticipated cost of construction is between $125 and $150 million. Enabling work for this project began in October 2011. Official groundbreaking on the project is set to take place sometime in 2012.