More than 250 Randolph County residents, community leaders and staff from Tanner Health System gathered to turn over the first shovelfuls of dirt for the region’s newest healthcare facility.
Officials broke ground Thursday, May 5, on the Tanner/East Alabama campus in Wedowee where the new hospital will be built.
Wedowee Hospital Administrator Mike Alexander, a part of Tanner’s leadership team, noted that the effort to build a new hospital in Alabama was itself something of a miracle made possible by the community’s support. Ten of the state’s hospitals have closed since 2011, and 20 have gone dark since 2000.
Many of those hospitals once served “communities that look very much like this one,” Alexander said.
“The only reason there’s a hospital in Randolph County is because God wants there to be one,” said Alexander, noting that the community had already experienced the loss of one such facility when Randolph Medical Center closed in 2011.
Wedowee Hospital itself would’ve been next on Alabama’s growing list of abandoned hospitals were it not for the community’s grassroots effort to save the facility, fostering a relationship with Carrollton, Ga.-based Tanner Health System. Tanner and community leaders worked out an agreement in which, if the community would finance the construction of a new hospital, the health system would furnish, equip and operate the new facility.
In August 2015, Randolph County voters went to the polls in droves to back a referendum that would create a special 1 percent sales tax to fund the hospital’s construction. The referendum carried, 4,775 to 778, with 86 percent of the county’s voters approving the 1 percent tax to fund construction of a new facility.
“You looked into the future and saw your community’s needs and your children’s needs,” said Alexander.
The new hospital will be a more than 50,000-square-foot, three-story modern hospital facility. The hospital will provide 24-hour emergency care, critical care support, inpatient and observation beds, a state-of-the-art surgical suite and advanced diagnostic imaging services. It will be the fifth hospital in the Tanner system, joining Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton, Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica, Higgins General Hospital in Bremen, Ga., and the inpatient behavioral health facility Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica.
“Last night, there were prayer meetings in churches across the nation,” said Daniel Jackson, chairman of Tanner Health System’s Board of Directors. “One of the first things they talked about in those meetings was offering prayers for those they know who are sick.”
Jackson described the importance of investing in health care from an economic perspective, a community perspective and a spiritual perspective.
“We have these bodies, and we know we need to take care of them,” Jackson said.
Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System, said discussions about partnering with the Randolph County community go back about 20 years, to when he and Jeff Stewart, MD, a board-certified family practice physician with Woodland Family Healthcare, began discussing ways the community and the health system could work together.
“We started asking ourselves, ‘How are we going to have a facility this community can be proud of? How are we going to have a facility that will attract the best and brightest healthcare providers to this region?’” Howard said. “This is an investment in your children’s future, and your grandchildren’s future.”
Bill Caypless, PA, chair of the Randolph County Healthcare Authority, said that the new hospital will be built in the spirit of the people who have taken care of the Randolph County community for years.
“I’ve practiced medicine in this community for 37 years, so I know what this facility means to us,” said Caypless. “We’re going to use this facility to build this community. We’re going to use this facility to attract our future medical providers. We’re going to build something you can be proud of.”
Brenda Boone, who chairs the Healthcare Authority of the Town of Wedowee, thanked everyone for their support of the new hospital.
“This hospital means everything to Randolph County,” she said.
Construction of the new hospital is expected to take about 15 months, with a grand opening in Fall 2017.
More information on Tanner is available online at www.tanner.org.
— PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
May 6, 2016
Contact: Tony Montcalm