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Various hospitals have served the region over past 100 years

Joe Avento and David Floyd • Jul 22, 2019 at 2:32 PM

In Johnson City and across the country, it was common for doctors to make house calls until the early 1950s.

"The patient's home served as the first place for treatment," reports William Bailey in "The History of Washington County Tennessee," a roughly 1,200-page tome that provides an exhaustive recounting of the history of the region. "And the kitchen table served as the operating table, but with new learning and patient demand for better facilities, the hospital came into being in Washington County."

Johnson City’s history with hospitals goes back to 1903, but it wasn’t until 1911 that the city got its first facility to treat the public.

Memorial Hospital and Appalachian Hospital

Memorial Hospital, the city’s first major health facility open to the public, opened in 1911 on what is now Fairview Avenue. It began its operations with just 10 beds and eventually grew to 30.

Within four years, the facility had outgrown its wooden building and a new home had to be found. It relocated to the Cy Lyle home on what is now Chilhowie Avenue. It stayed there until June 1921 before moving to the corner of Boone Street and West Fairview Avenue.

In February of that year, Memorial Hospital changed its name to Appalachian Hospital and eventually served as the site of the Appalachian Nursing School. The new hospital was designed for 60 beds, which was later upped to 72. This, however, still proved insufficient as there were times when the hospital was juggling 100 patients.

Still, it lasted 30 years and was replaced in 1951 by another facility, renamed Memorial Hospital, as an addition to Appalachian. This one was publicly owned and accepted charity cases. It had a physical therapy department and a blood bank in addition to a larger emergency room.

The new Memorial Hospital and JCMC

Memorial Hospital admitted its first patient in February of 1951. It lasted until 1980 and treated more than 80,000 patients in its last year. It had also expanded to include a nursing home.

Since its closing, Memorial Hospital’s building has served as an assistant living facility, first the Asbury and then the Lexington. The building was partially razed in December 2015. Other sections are now TownView independent living apartments.

The hospital's operations were moved to the new Johnson City Medical Center Hospital, which opened in 1980 near the National Home.

Johnson City Medical Center Hospital, which would later drop the word hospital from its official name, originally had five floors. Two more were added as its services were soon increased.

Johnson City Medical Center now has 445 beds and is one of six Level 1 Trauma Centers in Tennessee. It, along with the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, is considered a teaching hospital affiliated with East Tennessee State University.

These days, Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital and Niswonger Children’s Hospital, all run by Ballad Health, serve the community.

The formation of Ballad Health

On Jan. 9, 2014, Wellmont Health System announced that it was evaluating "strategic options for the organization's future," which would include the possibility of working with another health system.

The system found its match in Mountain States Health Alliance and in April 2015, the boards of directors of the two systems signed a term sheet agreeing to explore a merger.

After a lengthy approval process, which included the submission of a 2,578-page Certificate of Public Advantage application in February 2016 and two 120-day approval processes, John Dreyzehner, the Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner, approved the merger. The Virginia Department of Health gave its approval one month later.

The transaction creating Ballad Health went into effect on Feb. 1, 2018, at 12:01 a.m., but the hospital system formally launched on Feb. 2. The system now includes 21 hospitals and serves more than 1 million people in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

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