In 1964 Forsyth Medical Center opened its doors in Winston-Salem, just a few blocks from my home. Even as a 10-year-old kid I knew this was pretty special. After all, most hospitals get to witness the birth of people, but most people don’t get to witness the birth of a hospital. Now, 46 years later, I am a resident of Kernersville, and a brand new hospital is opening its doors just a short distance from my house. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Novant was stalking me, but in truth, the healthcare company has merely been responding to my needs.
A half-century ago, Kernersville was a small town with a couple of stoplights. Today it is the heart of the Piedmont Triad region with more than 100,000 people living in the surrounding Guilford/Forsyth corridor. As the heart of the Triad grew, so too did its need for accessible healthcare, with the emphasis on accessible.
Interstate 40 was a grand artery when it opened in 1957, but now it is in need of repair and expansion. Traffic often comes to a standstill when road crews are at work, and that situation will only get worse as the DOT plans to shut down entire sections of I-40 (going both ways) for a full year. For residents in the greater Kernersville region, access to Forsyth, Baptist or Moses Cone hospitals was becoming increasingly problematic. All this, along with a growing population made Kernersville the logical location for Novant’s (and the state’s) newest hospital.
And what a hospital it is. Kernersville Medical Center, which straddles the Forsyth/Guilford line just off Highway 66, features 50 in-patient beds, all of which include private bathrooms and built-in day beds to accommodate overnight stays for loved ones. KMC also offers a 14-bed emergency department and four operating rooms. Additionally, the new hospital has an outpatient services department that is easy to navigate, and includes special services for diabetes and ostomy patients. The hospital also includes a wound care center, a café, a chapel and an expansive pharmacy.
But perhaps KMC’s biggest asset is its president, Joanne Allen, a former nurse and longtime Novant administrator. With care and compassion so important to wellness and recovery, who better to lead a hospital than a nurse? Allen has overseen construction and installation of equipment for the $100 million facility. She has also already hired more than 200 employees and attracted some 400 physicians who will have admitting privileges.
To paraphrase the ghost voice in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”. In this case the “they” are doctors and patients, evidenced by the fact that three weeks prior to the grand opening, more than 30 surgeries were already scheduled to begin on March 16.
Last week I emceed a special event to honor all those who had worked so hard to bring Kernersville Medical Center to this area, and I was reminded of the tremendous team effort it took to make KMC a reality. It took the vision of longtime Novant CEO Paul Wiles. It took the cheerleading of medical director Dr. Charles Record. It took the community coordination of foundation chairman Arnold King, and the support of local elected officials, all coming together for the good of the region. The result of their combined efforts is a beautiful new hospital that is large enough to serve the diverse needs a of a growing population, and small enough to provide personalized care with a good bedside manner.
I don’t know where I’ll be in another 40 years, but I can be sure that Novant will be ready for me, probably having just built some space age, combination hospital/assisted living complex in my new neighborhood.
That’s because Novant always seems to know what I need, when I need it and where I need it, sort of like a good friend who can predict your every move. And so, I’m celebrating the birth of my old friend’s newest addition. Here’s to the birth of Kernersville Medical Center.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).