Lawmakers tour Children's Regional Hospital as MSHA plans new facility

By Julie Fann
star staff

  Mountain States Health Alliance plans to build a $25 million Regional Children's Hospital and MSHA officials hope to garner $3 million in federal appropriations to begin construction of the new facility.
  Area lawmakers, including Rep. Bill Jenkins, R-1st District, toured the current hospital at the Johnson City Medical Center Tuesday morning and viewed the future site.
  Created in 1992, the current unit houses 62 beds on the third and fourth floors of the main hospital and also has its own Intensive Care Unit and neonatal ICU. The new facility will consist of two additional floors with 10 extra beds and larger rooms. The structure will sit atop the Women's Health Center and will have a dedicated entrance and a separate emergency room.
  "I see this as a really wonderful opportunity" Jenkins said after the tour. "This hospital has a regional impact and the support of a great university, offering state-of-the-art health care."
  Others who attended the tour include East Tennessee State University President, Paul Stanton, who has a degree in medicine; Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City; Bob Patton, R-Johnson City, and Bill Snodgrass, Tri-Cities representative for Bill Jenkins.
  CEO Dennis Vonderfecht said MSHA is actively seeking private donations and construction of the facility will occur in two phases. "We need $16 million for the first phase, which will be the third floor and the outside. We would like to have $12 million in hand and the other $4 million pledged to begin construction," he said.
  The rest of the facility, including the emergency room, would be completed at a cost of $9 million in the second phase.
  The hospital is one of only five accredited facilities of its kind in the area and serves 26 counties. Approximately 68 percent of patients are from outside Washington County, and 25 physicians focus on 16 subspecialties, including diabetes, cancer, cardiac care, trauma, and surgical congenital anomalies.
  The neonatal ICU had 25 patients Tuesday, including an infant weighing only 13.7 ounces.
  Lisa Smithgall, RN, who is director of women and children's health for MSHA, led the tour. Designed to mimic a village, the children's hospital has hallways marked like streets with cardboard buildings attached to the walls. Sections of the ceiling are decorated with patient's drawings.
  Smithgall said the hospital has its own dedicated pediatric cardiac surgeon, which is rare for most children's hospitals.
  "We see all categories of ailments. Most of our patients, though, are trauma patients - for example, children who were riding their bicycle with no helmet; high risk children also," she said.
  No date has been officially set for the initiation of construction.