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Sisters of St. Francis, Dignity Health break ground on major project

Site of Santa Maria’s original hospital will include dedicated hospice center, senior housing

In collaboration with the Sisters of St. Francis, Dignity Health’s Marian Regional Medical Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony that celebrated the commencement of a series of building and remodeling projects to further benefit the Santa Maria community. 

The ceremony, held in late January at the site of Santa Maria’s first hospital on South College Drive, marked the start of a project that will include the community’s first dedicated in-patient hospice center along with new housing for the Sisters of St. Francis and affordable senior housing. 

The project will give new life to the grounds where Our Lady of Perpetual Help Hospital, Marian Regional Medical Center’s predecessor, was built at 124 S. College Dr. Santa Maria’s first hospital was opened there by the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in 1940.

“We realize that Santa Maria needs a dedicated hospice center,” said Sister Maria Elena Martinez, the provincial minister for the St. Francis Province. “The Sisters have been working with Dignity Health for years and that will continue.”

“This project is going to be an amazing gift to the community,” said Kathleen Sullivan, vice president of post acute care for Dignity Health. “My particular interest, of course, is the hospice house. There is no such thing in our area and it is so needed now.”

People’s Self-Help Housing is a partner in the project. Founded in 1970, People’s Self-Help Housing is the longest-serving nonprofit housing organization on the Central Coast, serving more than 10,000 residents in the area. PSHH helps build affordable housing for families, seniors, veterans, those living with disabilities and those transitioning out of homelessness. 

“We are here for the fulfillment of a dream that we continue our Franciscan tradition of caring for the people in Santa Maria – but we don’t do it alone,” Sister Maria Elena said. 

Other partners in the project include the NKT Commercial, 19six Architects, and the City of Santa Maria.

After Marian Regional Medical Center opened in 1965, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Hospital eventually became a senior living facility known as the Marian Residence. The facility also housed elder Sisters of St. Francis nuns and the offices for Dignity Health’s Home Health and Hospice.

The renovation project is expected to be completed within three to five years. Housing for the elder Sister of St. Francis nuns will include two buildings featuring independent-living units.

People’s Self-Help Housing has plans to build 40 units for senior citizens and 79 units for families on the property. 

To learn more about Marian Regional Medical Center’s Home Health Hospice services, visit