Many people think the roots of Tuomey Healthcare System begin with bequeaths of Sumter residents and philanthropists, Timothy and Ella Tuomey in 1913. There is, however, a preface to that important chapter. One that began with the opening of Sumter Hospital in 1904.
The 30-bed, three-story Sumter Hospital was as state of the art as hospitals could be at the turn of the century. In fact, the private hospital, built to serve the residents of Sumter, was modeled after the construction plan for Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. Drs. S.C. Baker, Walter Cheyne, Archie China and H.M. Stuckey founded the hospital together to serve the area’s sick and infirm, many of whom suffered from typhoid fever. The hospital also included such modern technology as an X-ray machine with a water motor and a top-floor surgery area with a large brass crane that housed 16 electric lamps.
It was this facility that became the foundation for the community hospital that Timothy J. Tuomey envisioned, one that would serve the needy residents of Sumter County. Tuomey, a Civil War volunteer and one-time U.S. marshal, journeyed to Sumter, settled and later married Ella, the eldest daughter of William and Johanna Bogin. Upon the Tuomeys’ deaths much of their fortune — which included money, property and real estate including a farm on Manning Avenue and the 3,200-acre Bell’s Mill Plantation — provided for the establishment of a charity hospital, The Tuomey Hospital. In 1913, the new hospital’s Trustees purchased the Sumter Hospital from its owners.
The Tuomeys’ substantial gifts for the establishment of the hospital were further supported by generous donations from the O’Donnell family — Ella’s younger sister, Kate, and her husband, Neill. Ella’s youngest sister, Anna, had one son, Arthur, who later gave a generous sum to the hospital specifically to care for the poor. Generations ago, these local families ensured that a community would always have a place where area residents could access a cadre of physicians and top-notch medical treatments regardless of their ability to pay.
In 1930, the small hospital underwent its first major renovation, with the addition of the Citizen’s Annex. The expansion added 50 much-needed beds for the growing community, more than doubling the number of patients the hospital could serve. Since then the need has steadily grown. In 1934, the emergency room saw 2,610 visits. A little more than 10 years later, in 1946, the number of visits had almost doubled. Today, the hospital is now a 301-bed healthcare center with a state-of-the-art ER that, in 2012, saw 63,000 visits.
The original hospital that stood proudly at Calhoun and Washington streets for more than 80 years still stands strong in the hearts of the many Sumter families it served. While the structure itself was torn down years ago, it’s still the heartbeat of an advanced, modern healthcare system designed to serve Sumter and her surrounding communities. Just as Timothy J. Tuomey planned more than 100 years ago.