Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer
Franklin’s new hospital opened in September 2022, after years of dialogue, some skepticism, and a multi-million dollar price tag. But the Mission Health-affiliated (since 2013) Angel Medical Center’s move from the former facility on Riverview Street in Franklin has been “seamless,” according to Clint Kendall, Angel Medical Center’s CEO, and the new hospital is offering more than naysayers speculated.
“The staff’s level of professionalism through the transition and since September has been noted in letters to editors in local newspapers,” said Kendall. “I think we have the best staff in the world here. They made the change over to the new hospital very seamlessly, and the community as a whole has been very supportive. While prehospital concerns were that the new hospital wasn’t going to be able to offer the services the community needed, citizens are seeing that we are offering above and beyond what was expected.”
The new hospital has a 30-bed capacity inpatient unit with five acuity adaptable beds, 20 medical surgical beds, and five observation beds, plus a 17-bed emergency department. Three beds are available for behavioral health patients as well as other patients’ needs. The hospital has new MRI and CAT scan machines, as well as a new nuclear medicine machine.
“Everything is new in our imaging department, except for a two-year-old, fluoroscopy unit, which is basically a continuous X-ray, purchased at the old hospital and brought over to the new hospital,” said Kendall. “Plus, at the end of 2022, we also purchased another ultrasound machine, and we purchased some new basic floor cleaning equipment to keep the hospital in top shape.”
A main draw to the new hospital is breast mammography services.
“Now, we have a 3-D mammography machine that is able to perform more precise stereotactic breast biopsies,” said Kendall. “[The hospital] is also able to provide breast MRIs. Women no longer must leave the community for high-level breast exams. Our physicians have been American College of Radiology certified to read mammography. And we are always looking for new opportunities for services and technology, especially regarding breast exams, because it’s such a need in our community.”
Besides focusing on breast care, the new Angel Medical Center has been able to offer additional surgical procedures due to equipment and staff.
“We’ve conducted some high-level surgeries here, such as bilateral knee/total knee replacement, total joints, bowel obstruction, and more,” said Kendall. “It’s a blessing to have skilled surgeons to take care of those types of surgeries.”
Kendall explained that the community has gained new medical professionals, due to “the fact that we have a wonderful community and this area is growing and beautiful, so those things are draws for [healthcare professionals].”
New staff includes a family practice physician, Samantha Brothers, M.D.; a hospitalist, Richard Stuart, M.D.; and an advanced practice practitioner, Jessica Kitchens, PA.
Mark Moriarty, M.D., is the orthopedic surgeon for Angel Medical Center and Zachary Phillips, MD, general surgeon, has been at Angel Medical Center for about a year.
“We are recruiting for other positions in general surgery areas so we can even better accommodate the community’s needs,” said Kendall. “For example, urology is another area we are focusing on.”
New helicopter pad and facility under construction
The old hospital’s helipad is being decommissioned, while a new helipad and helicopter staff headquarters is currently under construction at Angel Medical Center.
“It should be completed by late April,” said Kendall, explaining that the pad will have an indoor garage and maintenance area where at least two helicopters can be housed out of the weather, if necessary. “A dolly will push the helicopters in and pull them out,” he said.
MAMA II is the helicopter stationed at Mission’s Angel Medical Center, while MAMA I is stationed at Mission Hospital in Asheville.
“The fueling station is here as well,” said Kendall. “If we should have a major incident, where we need to transport people into or out of the area, we will be in good shape. Helicopter pilots, mechanics, and the flight team will all be located in the new helicopter facility, including sleeping and eating accommodations on the upper floor. That’s exciting for us. They’ve had a house behind the old hospital, but it hasn’t been as convenient as this new helicopter facility will be for them since this will be right in the midst of everything. It will be set up almost exactly like a fire station arrangement.”
Kendall added that since Angel Medical Center is centered in Macon County, his desire – and that of the staff’s – is for the hospital to be as much a part of the community as possible.
“If there are any opportunities where the hospital can be engaged in the community, we want to know about them. And, we have an adult volunteer program that involves sitting with people in the lobby, directing patients, and more, so anyone in the community can be a part of helping out at the hospital. Plus, we’re working on a junior volunteer program so youth 16 and older can learn more about healthcare.”
Kendall encourages anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities to telephone volunteer coordinator Rick Vangilder at (828)349-6688.