A Fresh Start for Fort Sanders Sevier

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Sevierville, Sevier County (WVLT) - Dolly Parton's hoping her songs and her efforts help her hometown get better health care.

Sunday, Dolly's concert at Smokies Stadium helped raise a half million dollars toward the new Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center.

Monday, she helped break ground on the new $110 million project.

As Stephen McLamb reports, it's great news for communities where hospitals and doctors offices are burdened just trying to keep up with the number of patients.

Fort Sanders Sevier was built to treat 17,000 patients. It now serves 41,000.

Officials say the new facility, and state of the art equipment will go a long way toward providing you better healthcare without a trip to the big city.

In rural areas like Sevier County, healthcare has come a long way over the last twenty to thirty years.

"At that time we didn't have as many specialty services. Things were more general med surg,” says Ellen Wilhoit, Fort Sanders Hospital president.

"A lot of our imaging services we were not able to provide at the hospital here in the county,” says Fort Sanders Imaging Leader Phil Carney.

"We didn't have the facilities to take care of folks and most of the time they were transferred to Knoxville,” says Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.

A growing population and the information age has turned things around in Sevier county for rural healthcare where quality is as high as it is anywhere else.

"You can essentially have all the information available to a physician or to a nurse at whatever hospital you provide," Covenant Health President.

Officials say Sevier County is now a hub for rural people to get quality care.

"We think that people will come here because we're going to have high quality healthcare,” Spezia says.

But overcrowding and a hospital built for 17,000 people is serving more than 40,000 now. Officials say the new hospital is the answer to their prayers.

"Some folks that are in adjoining counties that do not have access to the cancer services and they can come to our Thompson Cancer Center,” Wilhoit says.

Officials say rural healthcare is always a challenge and are facing problems that must be solved for the future.

"I think recruiting doctors who will come and live in the community and provide all the specialty care that we need here. That's one of the challenges,” says Spezia.

Many healthcare professionals we spoke to say there is one major challenge for the future and that is the financing of healthcare.

Many people have watched their healthcare premiums at work continue to increase and Spezia says now they have to figure out how healthcare gets paid.

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