They were supposed to open at 7 a.m. Monday morning, Feb. 2, but when the first patient showed up at the emergency room at 5:10 a.m., the staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital South opened the doors to Mary Shepard.

“The treatment I received was fantastic. There are no words to describe it,” said Shepard, a Riverview resident whose brother oversaw the plumbing at the hospital and whose daughter plans to work there. “I know they were not supposed to open until 7 a.m., but they opened the doors for me and treated me with respect and they were wonderful.”

On being the first-ever patient, Shepard chuckled and said, “It felt good.”

More than 30 years in the making, costing $237 million and with a hand-picked staff, St. Joseph’s had treated 30 patients by 3 p.m. Monday in the emergency room, and three patients were admitted.

The first St. Joseph’s baby should not be far off.

“We had a lot of women pre-register to give birth at St. Joseph’s,” said Nancy Gay, the hospital’s media relations coordinator.

The 112-bed, 360,000-square-foot hospital features the latest in medical technology and patient care, offering 20 separate medical services, including emergency, orthopedics, labor and delivery, a cardiac catherization lab and surgical suites.

Ground was broken for the hospital, which sits on 72 acres on Simmons Loop in Riverview, on Oct. 17, 2012. The campus also includes an 85,000-square-foot medical office building — expected to open next month — and a 40,000-square-foot outpatient center, which opened in 2013. Built on property purchased by St. Joseph’s more than 30 years ago, planning for the hospital began a decade ago.

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