"Race to the finish' - New Unicoi County Hospital 10 days from opening

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 12, 2018 at 11:54 PM

ERWIN — Less than two weeks before the new Unicoi County Hospital opens,  officials invited the media for a tour Friday of the 40,000-square-foot facility that has been some three years in the planning.

As workers from Snyder Signs pulled their bucket trucks into place to hoist the big red “emergency” sign above the hospital’s main entrance, Hospital Administrator Eric Carroll was inside telling reporters the next 10 days will be “a race to the finish.”

Public tours of the hospital will be conducted after an official ribbon cutting on Monday, Oct. 22. Carroll said visitors will be able to see the efficient use of space designed into the building and the new state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment that will improve the delivery of their health care.

The new hospital will open to Emergency Medical Service traffic at 7 a.m. on Oct. 23, at which time any inpatients at the old Unicoi County Memorial Hospital who are in need of continued hospital stay will be transferred. Both hospitals will remain open until all patient transfers are completed, after which the old hospital will close.

Teresa Hicks, corporate director of communications for Ballad Health, emphasized the new hospital will not open until the morning of Oct. 23, so those in need of emergency hospital care should continue to use the old hospital located off Mohawk Drive at 100 Greenway Circle, Erwin.

In keeping with that emphasis, signs at the highway entrance and around the exterior of the new hospital have been wrapped in a masking plastic until the opening.

The new facility includes a 24-hour emergency department with a telemedicine connection to Niswonger Children’s Hospital,10 inpatient beds, pulmonary, cardiac and acute care services, a chest pain center, standard and advanced diagnostics including nuclear medicine, and outpatient services.

Special care has been taken in the hospital’s decor to reflect the heritage and natural beauty of the region. Hicks said all the paintings displayed in the hospital are by local artists, and all photographs of natural settings were taken in Unicoi County.

A large print of a Blue Ridge Pottery plate hangs near the hospital’s food service area and a display of military mementos, including a photograph of the locally famous “Erwin Nine” WWII Army Air Corpsmen is prominently displayed in the hospital’s main corridor.

“We have a great new building but a hospital is the people who work here,” Carroll said. “We have a staff that is second to none and I think that is what will make it a success.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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