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White County hospital celebrates name change, Capella celebrates new partnership

Liz Engel Clark
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CEO Bill Little talks during a press conference at White County Community Hospital, now known as Highlands Medical, on Tuesday. Capella, which operates the facility and three others in the Upper Cumberland, celebrated the start of a joint venture with Saint Thomas Health.

SPARTA – A new logo, a new name and a renewed vow to better serve patients. Saint Thomas Health and Capella Healthcare celebrated the first day of their new partnership on Tuesday by unveiling a host of new beginnings at four Upper Cumberland hospitals – including White County, which is in line for more than $1 million in renovations.

That Sparta facility, the beginning point for the four-stop tour celebrating the start of the joint venture between Saint Thomas and Capella, perhaps had the biggest news to share. In addition to the $1 million-plus in upgrades, its name has changed, effective May 1, from White County Community Hospital to Highlands Medical Center.

It’s a shift that aims to update and regionalize the facility, said CEO Bill Little.

“Back 30-40 years ago, hospitals were identified with a geographical area like a city or county. Today, it doesn’t necessarily work that way,” Little said. “What we’ve tried to do, as part of reflecting on a new partnership, is reflect on a new way of thinking about health care in general. And it’s not just Sparta and White County specific. We know we see patients from Putnam County, Cumberland County, Fentress County. We want to have a new way of thinking. We think Highlands, with the Highlands Initiative, and the fact that this is the Highlands area, reflects that.”

The $1 million in upgrades will include new signage for the facility, which Little hoped would be in place within the next 60-90 days, and a number of improvements, which will take the next 12 months or so to complete. Several renderings were unveiled during the celebration that showed a total renovation of the geriatric psychiatry unit, a renovation of the medical surgical floors, and an expansion and renovation of the hospital’s main entrance. The dining room will receive a facelift as well.

“Hopefully by next summer we’ll have everything completed,” Little said. “Tomorrow, you probably won’t see any difference. I’m still going to be here, our staff’s still going to be here. But in the immediacy, we’re going to be looking for an accredited chest pain center for our emergency room. We’re going to be looking to partner with Saint Thomas Health to provide certain medical services in our community, physician wise, that we don’t currently have.”

At other stops on the tour - River Park Hospital in McMinnville, Stones River Hospital in Woodbury and DeKalb County Hospital in Smithville - officials reiterated much of the same message. The Capella/Saint Thomas partnership will allow the groups to leverage resources and share best practices, and to enhance and expand services already offered at each community facility.

At Stones River and DeKalb County Hospital, Little said they are looking to accredit both emergency rooms as chest pain centers. Many renovations have already taken place at those facilities within the last year.

River Park, which already has an accredited chest center, will get a facelift as well. Some of that work – landscaping, replacing old carpet with tile, etc. – has begun. There will also be a push for an accredited stroke center there, a process that is underway. The changes will make for a facility that’s cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing for both patients and staff, said Kenneth Ware, chief nursing officer at River Park.

“We're going to be working on decreasing wait time in the ER, too," Ware said. "Our volume has increased every month. There's going to be a really big push for us overall in terms of (increasing) patient satisfaction."

The Capella/Saint Thomas joint venture was first announced in December and officially inked on Monday. Capella is the managing member and the majority partner in the new venture, and under the agreement, Capella will be the exclusive development partner for Saint Thomas Health across Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

Tuesday’s tour also gave officials a chance to talk their new logo, which is a combination of Capella’s signature star and Saint Thomas’ cross, to signify the company's coming together.

“This is a historical day for all the Middle Tennessee communities Capella is a part of,” said Mark Medley, president, hospital division at Capella. "I think it's a good day for health care in general. (This) makes all of us stronger."

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