JEFFERSON-Three and a half years ago, Ashe Memorial Hospital was in dire financial straits.
“We were looking at if we couldn’t turn it around in 14 months, the facility would’ve probably closed,” CEO Beth Lambeth said during a recent commissioners’ meeting. “We have a very different story today. That’s not to say the hospital is totally out of the woods. Margins are still slimmed, but we are in a very different position than we were three and a half years ago.”
Since that time, the hospital has undergone extensive renovations and began a vigorous recruitment campaign to secure specialty care previously unavailable in a 30-mile radius in the region.
New surgeons and the securement of Blue Ridge Pediatrics have bolstered the hospital’s reputation as a top provider in care statewide. The additions of an orthopedics division, vascular surgeon and a cardiology department – courtesy of Novant Health – complement a growing list of services at the county’s fourth largest employer.
“One of the best services we have been able to offer is medical oncology and chemotherapy,” said Lambeth. “I’ve heard more about the problems and issues the community have if they needed chemotherapy, they (patients) would have to ride to Winston or Boone. I couldn’t imagine getting chemotherapy and having to ride another hour and a half home. That unit is full. We are looking to expand that unit. It’s been an excellent service for the community.”
The obtainment of new hospitalists and nurse practitioners have rounded out the hospital’s highly acclaimed staff, too.
“We have a full complement of physicians in the community that can meet the services of the community so they don’t have to go out of town,” said Lambeth.
To accentuate the quality of care that comes with new services the hospital’s façade has also been transformed by the way of a multi-phase renovation project.
“We needed to put a new front to the hospital,” said Lambeth.” We’ve been able to renovate the lobby and the MBU (monitor bed unit). The biggest renovation was the emergency department. That was something we worked on together to obtain that Golden Leaf grant. If you haven’t seen ED, it’s absolutely state of the art.”
The transformation from an emergency room to a full department began in December 2015 under the tutelage of Vannoy’s Construction of Jefferson. Tile-by-tile and brick-by-brick, workers have expanded the department’s role in providing an expedited delivery system that focuses on placing patients in the right department so care can be rendered faster than before.
New to the hospital are five “Fast Track” rooms that were implemented to both better serve patients and alleviate congestion in other areas of the department where patients are receiving more intensive care and attention. Those patients who find themselves in a “Fast Track” room are likely destined for a shorter hospital stay as their injuries are not as severe as others, explained Chief Operating Officer Joe Thore in a previous interview. An updated triage unit complements the new additions while streamline operations, too.
Due to the diligence of the hospital’s staff and the county’s commitment to keep the hospital afloat, AMH has garnered statewide and national recognition.
“The hospital has been recognized two years in a row as a Top 100 Hospital,” said James Lambert, vice president of compliance and quality. “AMH also has the only Four-Star rating in the High Country. We are trying to achieve a five-star rating. There are only two hospitals in the state that have a five-star rating.”
An updated emergency department is one of several improvements at AMH.