History of New Ulm Medical Center


The St. Alexander Hospital, 1884

Healthcare in New Ulm has a long history, tracing its heritage to 1883 when Father Alexander Berghold, organizer of the Catholic Church in New Ulm, founded St. Alexander Hospital. The need for a hospital in the community became apparent when a devastating tornado hit the city on Friday, July 15, 1881. About a dozen people were killed and several hundreds injured. There were many people who needed aid, but nowhere to take them for treatment. It was at this time that the Sisters of Christian Charity opened their school, which had not been destroyed, to care for these victims. Overnight, the school sisters became nursing sisters; the school, a hospital.

Two years later, Father Berghold began a community campaigning to raise money to build a “real hospital.” The St. Alexander Hospital, located in a “most picturesque spot under the bluff, overlooking the city from the west,” accepted its first patient on November 1, 1883. In 1884, sisters from the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Fort Wayne, Indiana, agreed to assume responsibility for the operations of the St. Alexander Hospital, allowing the Sisters of Christian Charity to return to their teaching profession.


In 1912, the name of the hospital was changed to Loretto Hospital, when a new building replaced the 1883 structure. The present building was built in 1962, with several additions and renovation projects completed since then.

Union Hospital, a non-sectarian hospital located across town from Loretto Hospital, opened its doors to patients in 1915. It had its beginnings in a meeting held in 1913 at Schells Hall in New Ulm. There, community members began planning to form a union of Protestant hospitals in the New Ulm area, providing an alternative to the Catholic-run Loretto Hospital. Union Hospital opened on December 18, 1915 when the first patient, William Fischer from New Ulm, was admitted.

For many years, the two hospitals in New Ulm worked together to meet the needs of patients in the area. On January 1, 1980, Loretto and Union Hospitals merged, creating Sioux Valley Hospital. By 1983, all services were relocated to the former Loretto Hospital campus and the Union Hospital building was demolished.

The New Ulm Medical Clinic was formed by eight physicians in 1974 to consolidate three of the city’s five medical practices and grew to 24 physicians at the time of the merger. Drs. William Black, Carl Fritsche, Milton Kaiser, Peter Kitzberger, William Muesing, Lawrence Ringhofer, Ann Vogel and Howard Vogel joined their practices and opened the new clinic on November 4 in a building located on the corner of Garden and Center Streets.

In 1984, Sioux Valley Hospital agreed to an ownership arrangement with Health Central, a healthcare management company in Minneapolis. Health Central owned and managed a number of hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare business, primarily in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Between 1984 and the late 1990’s Health Central, through a number of mergers and changes became Allina Health System. Allina Health System is a not-for-profit, health care organization with a network of 19 hospitals and 48 clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

New Ulm Medical Center is an integrated healthcare organization, the result of a merger between Sioux Valley Hospital and the New Ulm Medical Clinic in 1996. This integration culminated many years of close cooperation between the two facilities, which had been operating on the same campus since 1991, when physicians built a new clinic adjacent to the hospital. The same year, the two organizations merged their laboratory, radiology and medical records departments.


Today, primary care services are provided to residents in a 25-mile radius around New Ulm, including the communities of Sleepy Eye, Searles, Courtland, Nicollet, Klossner, Lafayette and Winthrop. Many patients drive 60-80 miles to receive such specialty services as Orthopedics, General Surgery, Obstetrics, Psychiatry and Pediatrics.

The medical center includes a multi-specialty clinic located at the north end of the building. The lower level of the clinic houses the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (physical, occupational and speech therapies and a therapeutic pool), Virginia Piper Cancer Institute and health information services. Acute-care hospital services are provided in the four-stories at the south end of the building.

The New Ulm Medical Center owes its successful and colorful history to hundreds of employees, nurses, and providers past and present. As a tribute to the contributions of some of those who have been best known and loved, the Legends Award was introduced in 2004 and annually recognizes health care providers that have contributed to the health of our community.

New Ulm Medical Center opened its first satellite clinic—the Winthrop Area Clinic—in 2007. The full-service clinic offers basic on-site lab and radiology capabilities; pre- and post-natal care with a family medicine physician who provides obstetrics; clinical orthopedic services with a board-certified orthopedic surgeon; clinical cardiology services with a cardiologist from the Minneapolis Heart Institute; physical therapy with a therapist from Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – New Ulm; and many other services.

Looking forward to a future of continuing to serve patients in a contemporary and calming atmosphere, with cutting edge equipment and technology, the New Ulm Medical Center has completed several renovation and expansion projects in recent years—many, in part, thanks to the support of local donors—including:

  • A $9.8 million project in spring 2005 that included expansions and renovations in the clinic, Emergency Room, Chemotherapy, Radiology, and hospital front entrance. It also included a new Coffee Shop and a new Chapel near the hospital front entrance.
  • A $3.5 million Surgery Department expansion completed in 2009 which included larger operating rooms, comfortable same day surgery rooms, a welcoming family waiting area, and enhanced procedures and equipment.
  • A $875,000 expansion, renovation and re-location of the cancer center in 2011, which then became the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – New Ulm. The project included a resource room for patients and families dealing with a new cancer diagnosis, co-located clinic services and treatment rooms, increased services through the integration of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute service line, and space to expand in the future to meet the expected continued growth in cancer treatment needs. The project also included a beautiful Garden of Hope located just outside the department which allows patients and visitors to enjoy the outdoors on nice days.
  • A $1.2 million Birth Center expansion and renovation completed in spring 2013 which included two brand new labor and delivery rooms and renovation on four existing rooms, a new nursery, new nurse's station and a family waiting area.
  • A $5.3 million clinic expansion project due to be complete at the end of 2013 which will add 12,000 square feet to the existing clinic and includes 28 exam rooms, a retail pharmacy with drive-thru window and retail medical equipment space for items such as canes, crutches, etc.