The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth displayed a commitment to caring for the sick long before a hospital could be built in Bardstown. In 1813 Teresa Carrico and Elizabeth Wells, two of the first Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, visited the sick in their first weeks together and began the healthcare tradition.
In the fall of 1945, efforts were begun to create a hospital in Bardstown when a group of interested citizens, at the instigation of Monsignor James H. Willett and Dr. Keith Crume, reached an agreement with Mother Ann Sebastian and The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth: The Sisters would build and operate a hospital in Bardstown once sufficient funds could be raised. The hospital would be staffed by the Sisters and would be dedicated to the ministry of service and mercy to the poor and sick.
Construction was begun in 1949 on land which the Sisters had purchased. The hospital consisted of a three-floor brick building with a capacity for 23 patients and 12 bassinets. The facility was named Flaget in memory of Benedict Joseph Flaget, first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bardstown. Ten patients registered for admission on the official opening day of January 8, 1951. Sister Bridgett Garvey, the first administrator, together with five other sisters, formed the sister staff. The medical staff consisted of eight members: one surgeon and seven general-practice physicians.
In 1967, the Nazareth Literary and Benevolent Institution Incorporated announced an organizational change which would affect the operation of its hospitals, including Flaget. Each hospital was charged to appoint a board of directors with the authority to operate the hospital. The administrator would be directly responsible to the board of directors. In 1968 the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth turned the operation of Flaget Memorial over to this independent board, made up of members of the local community.
In 1974, a new hospital wing was completed. The added space allowed for a second surgical suite and other major improvements.
In 1991, a second addition/renovation was completed. The added space allowed for a wealth of new features, including a new imaging services department with new nuclear medicine diagnostic equipment, a new lab, the county's first ICU, cardiac rehabilitation, laparoscopic and laser surgery, one-stitch cataract surgery, a gift shop, a chapel, and a major renovation of patient rooms.
An oncology/cancer care center was added in 1995. The Work Health Center was initiated through the Flaget Emergency Department that same year and opened on Portland Avenue. The aim was to provide health services to industries and their workers, including physical exams, drug screenings, trainings and prompt medical attention for injuries. Due to the growth in Nelson County and the resulting increase in Emergency Department visits, the Rural Health Center was opened in October of that year to re-direct non-emergency cases from the emergency room to a less expensive form of treatment. The Rural Health Center and the Work Health Center were combined into the Flaget Health Center.
In late 1997 the hospital purchased over $1.5 million in new radiology equipment, including a CT scanner, digital fluoroscopy, bone densitometry, and a dual-head nuclear medicine camera. The addition of equipment enhanced the state-of-the-art technology available to residents of Nelson and surrounding counties.
On September 1, 1997, Flaget became a member facility of Catholic Health Initiatives as a result of the consolidation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Health System with CHI. The former SCNHS officially became the Southeast Region of Catholic Health Initiatives with the addition of Our Lady of the Way Hospital in Martin, Kentucky.
The merger of Hospice of Nelson County with Flaget became effective in July 1998. Subsequently, a new Pain Management Task Force was formed to develop standards, mechanisms, and education to meet patient's optimal pain management needs. In that same year, Flaget Memorial opened the Flaget Health Connection, a free community resource center, in downtown Bardstown.
The hospital opened a new Pain Management Center in 1999. Two years later Flaget celebrated its 50th birthday with events held all year long.
In 2002 Flaget installed the county's first built-in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) diagnostic machine. The cost of the machine was $1.4 million. That same year, the hospital received approval from its parent organization, CHI, to replace the hospital building on Cathedral Manor with a new, $38 million hospital. The search began for a centrally-located site large enough to accommodate the county's growing demand for services.
In 2003 Flaget opened the county's first Sleep Disorders Center on South Fifth Street. The hospital also broke ground for the new hospital on a 32-acre site on KY 245. The park-like setting is nestled in the green hills that border Bernheim Forest, creating a healing environment.
Also in 2003, Flaget was awarded the first of two healthy community planning grants from CHI. The total funding of $66,000 was used for the Nelson County Healthy Community Initiative, which helps Nelson Countians find ways to address unmet community needs. Various projects developed out of this effort, including the Nelson County Community Clinic for the uninsured and a mental health screening program for the area's teens.
Flaget was honored as one of the 100 top hospitals in the nation for its overall performance during 2004 by the Solucient Center for Healthcare Improvement. The award was based on top performance in five critical areas: quality of care, patient safety, operational efficiency, financial stability and growth in community service. Since then, the hospital has won the prestigious award three years in a row.
In 2005 the new hospital was completed and opened in June. The old hospital building was returned to the community as the site for the new public library building. The new hospital contains twice as much space as the old facility, and offers greatly expanded services.
The Nelson County Community Clinic opened its doors in Bardstown in 2006, with the help of a $278,000 start-up grant from Flaget's parent organization, CHI, and scores of volunteers. The clinic serves the uninsured and under-insured in the county by providing free medical services and free medications. Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and volunteer hours from local dentists, the clinic will soon be offering basic dental services.
The year 2007 marked the completion of the new Flaget Medical Office Building on the hospital campus on KY 245. This handsome new structure, a perfect match to the classic look of the hospital, is a two-story building that offers 30,000 square feet of medical office space. The new building is linked to the hospital by a covered walkway. Greatly-expanded services include:
Flaget Pain Management Center
Flaget Wound Center
Flaget Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Center
Flaget Sleep Disorders Center
and Suite 205, the Physicians' Office Suite, which offers the specialties of neurosurgery, neurology, oncology, urology, pulmonology, gastroenterology and audiology.
Another milestone Flaget reached in 2007 was winning state government approval of the hospital's application to create a megavoltage radiation therapy center on the hospital campus, the first of its kind in Nelson County. Flaget will now move forward with the development of the center in cooperation with the Kentuckiana Cancer Institute and local physicians.