Hundreds attend ‘vine-cutting’ ceremony at new green hospital


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - With a green, leafy wisteria vine stretched across its front doors, the first environmentally friendly hospital in Tennessee held its opening ceremonies Friday.

Franklin Woods Community Hospital held a "vine cutting" ceremony with hundreds in attendance to welcome the first new hospital built in Washington County in three decades. The $122 million facility will replace and combine the services of North Side Hospital and Johnson City Specialty Hospital, which will both be closing on July 1. Franklin Woods will start seeing patients on July 12. The early ceremony was held to give the community a chance to tour the building over the weekend before preparations are made to begin treating patients.

"This is truly a great day for Johnson City, Washington County and our region collectively," said Dennis Vonderfecht, president and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance, the parent company to Franklin Woods. "The MSHA Difference will be clearly evident to those who walk through this hospital's doors."

Just driving into the parking lot at Franklin Woods shows how health care is changing. The area outside the hospital feels like a park with water features, gardens and lots of green space. There is parking near the front doors specifically for low-emission vehicles such as hybrid cars, and even spaces with electrical outlets for physicians using golf carts to come from neighboring offices inside Med Tech Park. The lobby has large glass walls, wood beams and trees growing indoors. Gone are the days of bleached white ceramic floors. These floors are made of cork.

"When we say that Franklin Woods is a green hospital, what we mean is that we have built it to the standards of the U.S Green Building Council and that we are applying for LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," said David Nicely, CEO for Franklin Woods and an MSHA vice president. "LEED works on a points system, and there are six different areas where you can receive points, including areas such as design, materials and resources, water efficiency and sustainable sites."

The new hospital has approximately 240,000 square feet and is built on a 25-acre lot inside Med Tech Park. It has 80 licensed beds and a 22-room Emergency Department. Of the licensed beds, 20 are dedicated as part of Women's and Children's Services. The surgical services include ear, nose and throat procedures, plastic surgeries and general surgery. There is also a large diagnostic services area offering two CT scanners, a cutting-edge MRI and other diagnostic equipment.

Technology and communications are important aspects of this new facility. The Vocera badges let doctors and nurses communicate much like a crew from Star Trek, with a mere touch of the badge allowing them to quickly speak to others inside the facility. The GetWellNetwork provides Internet services, movies and video games on a large, flat-screen television in each patient room much like those found at high-end hotels. This television-based tool provides a large variety of patient-specific medical information and even gives patients their daily agenda, letting them know when they can expect anything from a medical test to an in-room visit from their physician.

Hospital officials said that at Franklin Woods, they are putting a real emphasis on wellness. There will be no tobacco use allowed anywhere on the property. There are walking paths that lead around Med Tech Park, including over to the neighboring Wellness Center, also owned by MSHA. The back of the hospital is a dense forest the hospital plans to leave untouched. Around the edges of the facility are healing gardens filled with benches, picnic tables and water features. Even the products used to build the hospital are healthier than average.

"Being green at Franklin Woods goes well beyond just recycling. It has to do with how we handle waste and storm water runoff, how much passive solar energy is used and how safe the products are that we used to build the hospital," Nicely said. "When you walk into Franklin Woods, it won't have that 'new' smell, because that smell comes from chemicals being emitted from paint and other finishes that are not produced with the health impacts in mind. Those are the types of products we avoided when constructing Franklin Woods. "

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