Workers begin the process of installing the EMERGENCY sign at the new hospital, which will open its doors Oct. 23. Photos by Scott Robertson
In November 2013, when Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System were offering competing offers to take over Unicoi County’s then-50-plus-year-old hospital, many in the community were skeptical either organization would ever build a new facility to replace it. Today, those two systems have merged, becoming Ballad Health, and the promised replacement facility for the 1950s era hospital is less than a week from opening.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. “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 As care and funding models have changed, the facility became not only outdated, but also more and more costly to operate.
The new facility offers respiratory and cardiology services, as well as multiple digital imaging diagnostic disciplines including X-ray, CT and MRI. The hospital also has a large trauma suite and a helipad.