Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
On the first cool fall day of 2022, community leaders, Town of Franklin and Macon County employees, representatives of the health care community, the press, and many more congregated in front of the new Angel Medical Center for its ribbon cutting. As a new flag was raised on the hospital ground’s flag pole, Delphine Kirkland, of the local band Blue Jazz, led the Sept. 13 morning crowd in the singing of the national anthem.
Several officials spoke about how the facility came to fruition and what it offers the region.
Ground-breaking at the 124 One Center Court site occurred in May 2021 with the targeted goal of fall 2022 for competition. The new 30-bed, 82,000-square-foot hospital has three operating rooms, dedicated endoscopy and radiology spaces, and a 17-bed emergency department with three behavioral health rooms. Angel Medical Center’s new building was dubbed by many who spoke as a state-of-the art, high technology facility that provides larger, more spacious patient rooms as well as the ability to offer such outpatient services as a wound clinic, a full laboratory, digital mammography, CT (computed tomography scan), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) nuclear medicine, and physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Before the official ribbon cutting, Cara Smith, Angel Medical Center’s director of clinical operations, said, “This is a day of celebration for the whole community … a milestone in Western North Carolina.”
Greg Lowe, president of Mission Health, expressed zappreciation for “everyone involved,” adding that “construction is not quite finished” on what will be the heliport and entryway – a $4.6 million project – from which the MAMA (Mountain Area Medical Airlift) team will transport patients.
“I never imagined we would ever be building a $68 million facility in Franklin,” said Johnny Mira-Knippel, who is chairman of Angel Medical Center’s board of trustees, president at TekTone Sound & Signal Mfg., Inc., and president at Stay Smart Care, Inc.
“We tried to make the existing facility work but could not. With this new facility, there is more space for patients to have visitors … more inviting for those who have to be here.”
Mayor Jack Horton characterized the ribbon cutting event as “a historic occasion in the life of our community – one that will have a lasting impact on our lives. So many communities are suffering because of a lack of medical facilities, but here we have this one, and I’m so grateful for the board and their foresight. The hospital will be a catalyst for growing jobs and providing opportunities in this area.”
Horton quipped that one of the questions he is asked most is: “’What’s going to happen to the old hospital building?’ We are working on plans and determining how it can be a benefit to our town, county, and region.”
The new hospital officially opens Sept. 18. The original hospital at 120 Riverview Street opened in 1926 and was added to and updated over the years. The Medical Center is named for Dr. Furman Angel who, in 1923, set up a clinic in some rooms on the second floor of the historic Cunningham Building in Franklin. Dr. Angel was born in 1887, was a Franklin High School graduate, and died in 1969, in Franklin, at the age of 71. The year after he started his clinic, he purchased the Cope Elias house on the Riverview Street and started Angel Hospital. The Cope Elias house served as the hospital until 1926, when the new hospital building was completed.
Besides the official ribbon cutting ceremony prayer by Angel Medical Center board member Janet Greene, who offered that the new facility is a “beacon of healthcare in our community,” Bonnie Peggs, who has overseen chaplain services at Angel, blessed the doors of the new hospital with frankincense and myrrh, a nod toward Biblically espoused Old Testament traditions.