Hendrick Medical Center, a regional hospital in Abilene, is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and is a registered member of the American Hospital Association. It opened on September 15, 1924, as West Texas Baptist Sanitarium. The new hospital was the fulfillment of the dream of Millard A. Jenkins, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Abilene, who had been striving to establish such a Baptist health-care institution since 1915. A proposition to build a countywide hospital was voted down in Taylor County in 1921. After that, Jenkins joined Jefferson Davis Sandefer, president of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), to form a committee of prominent Abilene residents to undertake the building of a hospital. Plans were drafted and funds raised to support the institution. Judge Clifton M. Caldwell and his wife donated a six-acre site in north Abilene as a location for the hospital.
In February 1923 these founders applied for a charter, elected trustees, and adopted the name West Texas Baptist Sanitarium as they began to establish basic operating policies. On September 15, 1924, the sanitarium, which had five floors, seventy-five beds, fireproof construction, steam heat, hot and cold running water in every room, and three elevators, admitted its first patient. The Great Depression hit the sanitarium very hard. The hospital was led at the time by Earl Matthew Collier, who became administrator in 1929 and served until 1970. The loss of income from patients who were out of work, the increase in demands for charity, and increasing bills and expenses all impoverished the institution. The poor financial condition of previous donors made it impossible for them to provide the kind of assistance they had previously made available.
The sanitarium was nearing bankruptcy when, in 1936, West Texas ranchers Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Hendrick saw the desperate needs of the financially struggling hospital. They paid off the $40,000 mortgage and gave an additional $100,000 for the construction of the east wing of the hospital. In recognition of the generosity of the Hendricks, the name was changed to Hendrick Memorial Hospital at that time.
World War II also had a significant effect upon the hospital. The establishment of Camp Barkeley in 1940 made it necessary for the hospital to expand to meet the needs of the soldiers and their families. Hendrick applied for and received a government grant that was supplemented by local funds, and in 1943 the west wing, four floors of hospital beds, was built. Between 1946 and 1977 several new wings and a nursing school were added, including the Collier Building, a seven-floor facility named after the hospital's former administrator. In 1977 the name was changed to Hendrick Medical Center to convey the institution's multifaceted role as a regional health-care facility. The Professional Center, primarily housing physicians' offices, was opened in 1977, as was the Residential Retirement Center.
The Mabee Building, made possible by a generous challenge grant from the J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation and other contributions, opened in 1980; it housed the new trauma center and admissions offices. The seven-story southeast wing was also finished in 1980, with two floors occupied by laboratories, physical therapy facilities, and administrative offices. Five floors of shelled-in space were left for future needs. The third and fourth floors of the southeast wing came into use when the new prenatal unit was opened in 1984. This unit was also financed by a challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation, as well as more than $1 million in matching contributions.
Boone Powell, Jr., resigned as president of Hendrick Medical Center in 1980 and was replaced by Michael C. Waters, who continued in that position as of 1993. A cancer-treatment center utilizing a new linear accelerator opened in the fall of 1985, made possible by an anonymous donation of $1.65 million. An ambulatory surgery center, for surgical cases not requiring an overnight hospital stay, opened in 1986. Since 1985, new critical-care and pediatric intermediate-care units, a skilled nursing-care facility, an extended-care facility, a rehabilitation center, a magnetic resonance imaging facility, and a sleep-disorder center have opened. Additionally, the Anderson Outpatient Center, the Hendrick Heartsaver Network (a follow-up program for cardiac patients), and the Hendrick League House (a lodging facility for the out-of-town family of critically ill patients), have become operational. In 1992 Hendrick Medical Center recorded 71,087 inpatient admissions and 27,719 emergency and 53,155 other types of outpatient visits.