Public hears details on new health-care facility
Approximately 45 people gathered into one of the dining rooms at the Dan’l Boone Inn in Boone to hear a presentation by Tim Ford, CEO of the Blowing Rock Hospital. The March 8 presentation was part of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly “Wake Up Watauga” public meeting series.
Ford spoke at length about Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s new project. The new facility will be constructed on property near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Blowing Rock and will replace Blowing Rock Hospital.
After a brief introduction by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dan Meyer, Ford described the role of ARHS in the community.
“The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System s made up of three units,” Ford said. “At Cannon Memorial Hospital we have 25 acute care beds and 10 psychiatric beds. At Watauga Medical Center we have a primary care and specialty care facility. And in Blowing Rock we have 72 long-term care beds.
“The system provides jobs for 1,400 employees and pays $65 million in salaries annually. The entire system has a $150 million annual budget.”
According to Ford, the new Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge facility will break ground this summer and will open in the spring of 2015. As a replacement for Blowing Rock Hospital, it will provide 40 additional beds for a total of 112 and will provide approximately 59 additional jobs to the local economy.
“The design-build process we have been using keeps us in constant communication with the contractor, engineer, architect, staff and owners,” said Ford. “We are all in the same room at the same time so we can all be on the same page when changes are made.”
Ford said that the NCDOT has agreed to fund an access road to the Chestnut Ridge site, one that will be located on U.S. 321 across the street from Edmisten Road. The facility will be built on a 68-acre site close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Criterion Healthcare is the project manager, Vannoy Construction is the general contractor and RPA Design is the architectural firm.
Ford said that the entire project will cost approximately $20 million, with $15 million of that in construction costs. The project has already received $5.2 million in grants and contributions.
When completed, Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge will provide skilled nursing care, post-acute rehabilitation care, Alzheimer’s disease and memory support care, palliative care, speech and communication disorder therapy, and primary care from an onsite physician.
“We will be partnering with the ASU College of Health Sciences,” Ford said. “It is a very strong program and we will have access to nursing students, as well as students in other programs such as the social work program, exercise sciences, nutrition and health care management.”
According to Ford, the main building of the new facility will be a two-story structure with a mountain theme, utilizing natural looking materials such as stone, rock and wood in its construction. The facility will include private and semi-private bedrooms, kitchens, dining areas, a gift shop, clothing store, living areas and an auditorium.
“We want to integrate the residents, not isolate them,” said Ford. “We want them to feel that they are part of a community. We call them neighborhoods. We won’t have the long hallways that we now have at the current Blowing Rock Hospital.”
The facility will feature 34 beds in the skilled nursing area, 34 beds in the rehabilitation unit and 20 beds dedicated to the memory care unit.
ARHS is currently exploring possible partnerships to add a retirement community to the 68-acre site.
After Ford’s presentation, people present at the Wake Up Watauga meeting were given a chance to ask him questions about the new health care facility.
During the question-and-answer period, Ford said that the new facility would utilize modern energy efficient technology with passive solar collectors, an energy saving electrical system and the possible use of geothermal energy.
When asked about the future sale of the current Blowing Rock Hospital, located on a hill near downtown Blowing Rock, Ford said, “It sits on 3.5 acres of land that is surrounded on three sides by 9 acres owned by someone else. We are looking at selling it and have been in close communication with the Town of Blowing Rock on what will happen to the property.”
For more information, call the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce at (828) 264-2555.