Public sees new hospital

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‘I love it; I think it’s beautiful,’ declares one attendee

By Cindy Simpson

A crowd filled the lobby of the new Roane Medical Center on Sunday. They were excited to take a sneak peek at the state-of-the-art facility.
They got up-close looks at the latest technology, including the four operating rooms and advanced cardiac catheterization lab.
“I love it! I think it is beautiful,” said Sheril Shannon, whose adult son, Michael Shannon, suffers from spina bifida. “His primary care physician uses Roane Medical Center.” 
The new hospital is a culmination of work that started when Harriman City Council reached an agreement with Covenant Health in 2008 after Roane Medical officials recommended selling the struggling city-owned community hospital.
Both Gaye Jolly, president and chief administrative officer of Roane Medical Center, and Tony Spezia, Covenant Health president and chief executive officer, spoke at a special ceremony that culminated in a ribbon-cutting that included Ferrell Winfree — the first female born at Harriman Hospital.
“The new Roane Medical Center is built for the 21st century with technology that is going to support complex medical services and give comfort to patients and their families,” Jolly told the standing-room-only crowd.
The emergency department, with 15 emergency suites, is triple the space of the current facility.
“If you’ve been to our current one, you can appreciate that,” Jolly said.
The facility also focuses on accessibility for patients and their families, with more than 500 free parking spaces on one level and easy-to-utilize patient drop-off and pick-up areas.
Spezia spoke of the commitment Covenant Health has made to Roane County.
“We are committed to keeping health care local. Strong local health care is good for the economy, but more important, it is good for the people who live here. Covenant Health is committed to providing accessible care in local settings. That is why we invested $76 million to build this new Roane Medical Center, and why Covenant Health over the last decade has invested nearly $1 billion in facilities and technologies and programs and services in our hospitals in East Tennessee,” Spezia said.
“I can tell you there is no more rewarding part to my role and to the other leaders of Covenant Health to be able to do something like this, because it really does change the community,” he added.
People freely perused the 145,000-square-foot facility, including the professional office building, the location of the award-winning Patricia Neal Outpatient Center and its new therapy pool, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and Thompson Oncology Group, which will be staffed with board-certified oncologists with access to what a release called “nationally acclaimed multidisciplinary cancer care through Thompson Cancer Survival Center.” Other amenities include all private patient rooms and technologically advanced surgery suites.
Frances and Felix Ooten said the new facility is important for the community.
“We are just excited about having a facility like this in our area,” Frances Ooten said.
“This is a big deal for Roane County and East Tennessee,” Felix Ooten agreed.
Ida Fletcher, a former licensed practical nurse from Roane Medical Center, toured the facility with friends from the medical profession.
“I retired too soon,” she quipped after admiring the advanced technology.
She was both impressed and nostalgic.
“I have to admit I do have a sad feeling leaving the other one,” she added.
“This is great having a hospital in your own back yard,” Carolyn Alexander of Midtown said while looking at the nuclear medicine area of the facility.
One of the more exciting technologies is the new cardiac catheterization lab that allows for 360-degree imaging while a patient lies in one position.
“This is the most advanced piece of equipment we have here,” Michael Pazich II, manager of the cardiac diagnostics, told visitors.
Barbara Adkisson McCoin has seen medicine in Roane County change drastically.
A doctor delivered her at home, and one of her first experiences with Harriman Hospital was when her tonsils were removed by Dr. Louis A. Killeffer, one of the four medical professionals remembered as fostering the growing medical community of Harriman in the 1900s.
She hopes this facility will encourage growth of the medical community in Roane again.
“This is such a marvelous addition, and I’m so glad Roane County has it,” she said.
“The current economic environment is challenging for many, including and maybe even especially health-care providers,” Spezia said. “You have seen hospitals in this region sold and closed, including right here in Roane County. Covenant Health and this hospital are here to stay. We are meeting these economic challenges by using our community resources wisely.”
Spezia said Covenant Health needs the community’s support for the hospital to thrive.
“Make it known to your physicians that you want them to support this hospital. That is the way this hospital will be successful and will grow,” he said.