History of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies
A little more than two decades ago, a group of local pediatricians and community leaders recognized the growing need for specialized care for women and children. Their quest was joined by Orlando Health (named Orlando Regional Medical Center at the time) and golf legend Arnold Palmer and his late wife, Winnie Palmer. The group set out to create a world class hospital dedicated to the unique needs of women and children. The result was Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women, which opened on September 10, 1989 (Arnold Palmer’s 60th birthday) and was the only hospital in the Southeast (and one of only six in the nation) dedicated to serving the unique needs of women and children.
Over the years the Central Florida community continued to grow and in 2004, over 11,000 babies were born at Arnold Palmer Hospital, one of the busiest labor & delivery units in the nation. The demand for obstetric, gynecological and children’s services had risen so dramatically that the hospital was continually filled to capacity. Orlando Health recognized the need for an expansion of the Arnold Palmer facility in order to accommodate the needs of women and children in Central Florida.
Ground was broken in 2004 and on May 30, 2006, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies opened, dedicated exclusively to the needs of women and babies. The new hospital allowed Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to dedicate itself solely to the care and treatment of children. Arnold Palmer Hospital was renovated to nearly double the capacity for pediatric services, and is the first facility in Central Florida to provide emergency care exclusively for pediatrics.
The two hospitals are part of the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies and are joined by a two-story connector that allows the specialized physicians and services to be shared among the babies and children.
The Palmer Family Legacy
Arnold and Winnie Palmer were first introduced to Orlando Regional Healthcare through an invitation to tour the newly opened neonatal intensive care unit and pediatrics wing of Orlando Regional Medical Center in the mid-1980s. This small unit had a talented, ambitious and dedicated staff, but the meager conditions made an impact on the Palmers. Arnold was said to have commented, “We can do better than this — we should do better than this — for the children of our community.”
Some close friends of the Palmers asked if they would be interested in joining the cause to help make a children's hospital a reality. After much discussion, they agreed to lend Arnold Palmer's name to the facility as well as help raise the money needed to build it.
A Call to Exceptional Care
With the agreement to give the new children’s hospital his name, Arnold insisted on a commitment that “good” would never be “good enough” and set forth a challenge to the hospital: to always strive to be the best.
Winnie also generously gave her time and energy to the cause, hosting groups on special tours of the hospital to engage their support. In addition, she served on the Arnold Palmer Hospital board of directors for more than 10 years and inspired the establishment of the annual Halloween parade for our patients, helping them to forget being in a hospital and to just enjoy being a child for a while.
It’s only fitting that the name of our newest hospital be synonymous with the same commitment to quality and excellence as Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. We wanted it to immediately resonate with everyone who hears it — a name that is forever associated with caring, compassion and distinction. Winnie Palmer displayed these qualities and many more in all that she did. Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies is a natural continuation of a legacy of caring that will continue for generations to come.