Ballad Health opens new hospital in Erwin


A view from behind the stage shows the crowd gathered to celebrate the ribbon cutting that preceded the opening of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital last Monday in Erwin. (Photo contributed)

At a time when rural hospitals around the country are struggling to keep their doors open, Ballad Health officially opened Unicoi County Memorial Hospital in Erwin on Tuesday.

UCMH replaces a hospital built in the 1950s with a 40,000-square-foot facility that contains the latest in diagnostic imaging equipment, a 24/7 emergency department and respiratory and cardiology services. The hospital also has a large trauma suite and a helipad.
While the new facility has fewer inpatient beds than the existing hospital, the number of outpatient beds has increased, says Eric Carroll, assistant vice president and administrator.

“There are 10 inpatient beds and 10 emergency beds,” Carroll told media members during an Oct. 12 tour of the facility. “Right now the average daily census (the number of inpatients inhabiting beds) is around five.” That means the new hospital can more than accommodate current inpatient loads, while making space available for outpatient care.

The old hospital had 40 beds, but was designed almost entirely for inpatient care. As care and funding models have changed, the facility became not only outdated, but also more and more costly to operate.

Following a ribbon cutting on Monday, the new hospital began accepting EMS traffic at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The hospital was also open to new patients at that time, and patients from the old Unicoi County Memorial Hospital started transferring over to the new facility during the day on Tuesday. The old hospital will remain open until all transfers are complete.

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