“It is almost like a class reunion,” said Janie Maddox, chair of the WellStar Board of Trustees, who added that the group attending was a small representation of the WellStar Health System from the beginning.
“I did not know who in the world I would see here today,” former WellStar CEO Bernie Brown said. He said he came early to look over the table of name tags “to see who I knew, who I didn’t, and who I am supposed to know.”
Maddox started the festivities by welcoming the guests, who were seated at round tables next to windows overlooking the green golf course.
“I am just in awe of being here today,” said Maddox, who said everyone in the room, from doctors to community leaders, contributed to “making the system as strong as it is.”
WellStar’s not-for-profit organization started as a marriage between Kennestone Hospital and Cobb Hospital to combine laundry services, Brown said. Next, the partnership addressed urgent care centers that were so close to each other that they were duplicating services in one area.
Brown retired more than a decade ago but said he stayed in the Marietta area because of the great health care available that is needed as a senior citizen. “It really makes you realize what progress has been made in the health care field.”
Maddox said WellStar might be a model to the nation on how to design a health system, but the care is focused on how to help people locally.
“It is a 20-year celebration of keeping our community healthy,” said Maddox, who said it is not just about healing, but also raising the quality of life for residents.
A complex business
Tom Philips started on the Board of Trustees in 1996 and said his goal “was to learn as much about the complicated business as possible to be effective.”
Philips said the biggest accomplishment by the board has been gathering investments to allow the WellStar Health System to be independent.
“People recognize quality when they see the WellStar flag,” said Philips.
Philips said the network’s expansion into new markets has always been a joint effort with the community to “tell us what they needed and what they expected.”
One project that has received a lot of support is the new $125 million WellStar Paulding Replacement Hospital.
Loran Wills was the founder of the existing Paulding Hospital in Dallas and said the small facility was struggling to make payroll before it was incorporated by WellStar 20 years ago.
“WellStar was a godsend,” said Wills, who added that he is thrilled about the construction of the new center, which he passes every day.
Wills said the new hospital, which is in Hiram on the corner of Charles Hardy Parkway and Jimmy Lee Smith Parkway, will mean Paulding residents will not have to go to Atlanta or Kennesaw for total care.
The eight-story facility will open April 2014, and will only be partially furnished to allow for future offices to move in. Wills added that the surrounding land might be developed into speciality buildings.
Maddox said the future of WellStar is not only focused on the physical additions to the system, but the importance of being a leader in the latest technology.
Starting in September, WellStar Connect will allow patient records to be accessed across the entire network of care providers, which will help with appointment setting and specialist referrals, according to Maddox.
“It will mean a much easier, at your fingertips, coordination,” Maddox said.
Philips said there is a bright future for the WellStar brand.
“We will always be ahead of the curve,” said Philips, who added that celebrating the 20-year-milestone “had to happen.”