RANSON – Plans for a new medical center for Jefferson County are moving ahead, but there’s been no slowdown in improvements at the hospital that opened here in 1975.
Recent upgrades at Jefferson Memorial include an overhauled emergency department and the introduction of the latest digital mammography at its Women’s Imaging Center.
“Even though we’ve announced plans for a new hospital, it’s important that we continue to operate a state-of-the art hospital here,” explains Christina Coad, who has been Jefferson Memorial’s chief administrative officer since 2008. “That’s what our patients and staff expect, and that’s what our patients deserve, too.”
Coad said officials hope to hold a formal groundbreaking next month at the site planned for the new hospital, a 50-acre former farm along U.S. 340 S. in Charles Town.
The new facility won’t open until 2017 or so, said Coad, a former New Yorker who worked as a registered nurse before starting her own health care consulting company and earning a Ph.D. in nursing from York College.
Before crews construct the hospital, they’ll likely build other elements of the medical campus such as a medical office building, an interactive education facility and a wellness center, Coad said.
“Right now, we’re still looking at what we’ll put on the campus,” she said. “We’ve done some brainstorming with physicians, to ask what it is that’s important to them. We heard a list that was from A to Z. What’s clear is that we’re not just building a replacement hospital.
“We have this 50-acre site and we’re going to look at how we can use that space to meet the health needs of every resident, of people in every age group.”
Other elements of the medical campus may include an urgent care center, a patient and community health education center, an interdisciplinary medical library and a skill development/simulation laboratory, officials say.
The new site came to the hospital thanks to Dr. Jules F. Langlet, who practiced in Charles Town and at Jefferson Memorial for decades before his retirement.
“Dr. Langlet is well-known and well-loved,” Coad said. “When he walks the halls, everyone waves to him and wants to say hello.”
Her own experience with Dr. Langlet has been thoroughly positive, she said. “One day he showed up at my door and said he knew of the perfect place for the new hospital.”
When she saw the site herself, she agreed. “The view of the mountains is absolutely spectacular,” she said. “From the hilltop where the hospital will be built, it is the most beautiful vista. You look around and it’s soothing and beautiful and just the ideal location for a facil-ity where healing takes place.”
The Langlets donated to Jefferson Health Care Foundation 10 acres of the site and the hospital paid $1.2 million for the rest of the property, Coad said.
Along with City Hospital in Martinsburg, Jefferson Memorial has been part of Morgantown-based West Virginia University Hospitals East since a merger became final on Jan. 1, 2005.
It’s too early to know what might be next for the current hospital at 300 S. Preston St. in Ranson, but Coad said one possibility would be for it to be converted into a long-term care facility.
In the coming months, Coad will meet with physician representatives, hospital board members and officials from the hospital’s parent company in Morgantown to settle on specifics for the new facility, include its overall price tag.
She said that community groups will be assembled to determine how much interest exists in features such as a wellness/fitness center, walking trails and other possible offerings.
Coad is uniquely qualified to lead Jefferson Memorial during the transition to a new hospital. In her previous consulting work, she oversaw the construction of new hospitals in Ohio and in Loudoun County, Va.
She initially came to Ranson to work as a consultant as the upgrade of the emergency department began. Any trepidation about change has been replaced by excitement, Coad said, as physicians, nurses and other staff members realized she would ensure proper planning at every turn, Coad said.
“This facility looks nothing like it did a few years ago,” Coad said. “We’ve invested $10 million in the last seven years. People walk in and they can’t believe it’s the same building.
“For our staff, the news of the new campus has stirred up a lot of energy and excitement. There’s sort of an attitude, ‘Look what we have when we just renovated. Imagine how great it’s going to be to have a new facility.’ ’’
Coad’s from-the-ground-up approach invites workers’ trust, she said. “Whenever there’s a decision to be made, I talk to the staff on the front lines,” she said. “My key question is always, ‘How can we make your job easier?’ If staff members have what they need to do the best job possible, then all the rest gets taken care of. I never have to worry about patients. I know they’ll get the best care possible.”