By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
CELINA – A new logo on the building is not the only change noticed at Cumberland River Hospital (CRH). There’s also new doctors, new services and a team that is ready to tackle whatever comes their way. CRH’s new owner Johnny Presley was joined by a large group of doctors, nurses, government leaders and Clay County citizens as they officially celebrated the reopening on Thursday in Celina.
“We’re currently admitting patients and providing services as we speak,” said Presley.
The new hospital opened its doors on April 17, and the patient counts have been steadily rising. One physician reported that his patients had climbed from 28 to 39 and 45 patients on consecutive days once word got out they were open.
Presley praised the local physicians and the support they have provided in reopening the facility.
“None of this would happen without the support of the local physicians and the physicians that are willing to step up to the plate and come help us provide surgery, but most importantly – and very most importantly – we’ve got to have everybody in this community using this facility because if they don’t, this facility will go right back down again,” said Presley.
The CRH Specialty Clinic is located on the right end (north) of the building, the CRH Primary Care Clinic will be at the left end (south) of the building, and the hospital is located in the middle.
CRH is a full-fledged hospital that is now offering emergency care, primary care, specialty care and surgical options, including orthopedics, urology and general surgery. Presley also hopes to be able to provide cardiology and oncology in the near future.
“In opening the hospital, one of the things we’re going to be providing is a lot of advanced technology and procedures that haven’t been done here in many years,” said Presley. “In house, we’ll have a full array of practically brand new CT scanners, ultrasound – we’re looking at bringing in digital mammography.”
Patients will notice the changes in the equipment affects wait times also. A new CT scanner was installed that can do a scan in two to three minutes that previously would have taken close to an hour, significantly reducing the time spent waiting for results.
“General surgery is something that we can do here,” said CRH Chief of Surgery Dr. Barton Clements, who is a Clay County native who previously worked at the facility. “I’ve personally done it here. It helps keep some of the patients here in the community, and that’s what our goal is to help grow the program.”
Presley has named some other familiar faces to the staff at CRH. Co-CEO Don Downey was the administrator at CRH from 1991-1996. Roy Gilbert will join him as Co-CEO. Nate Rich will serve as the chief operating officer. Rich was at CRH before it closed last year. Susan Bailey has been named chief nursing officer. Dr. Kenneth Bailey will be the medical chief of staff, and Dr. Eric Satterfield will serve as director of emergency services.
Dr. Timothy Klepper will join the team as a general surgeon, and Dr. Harry Horn will also be on staff.
Presley was quick to voice his confidence in his team.
“I promise you one thing; you’ll get the best service around. You’ll get the best physicians around, and we’ll make sure of that,” assured Presley. “Because one thing Tennesseans do, is we care about people, and we’re going to work our butts off to make sure that everyone gets the best care they can get. I feel confident that our providers are as good as any providers anywhere in this country.”
CRH has had a long journey since ceased operations on March 1. When Presley closed on the purchase in August, he hoped to be open by late October or early November at the latest. That plan was delayed when he had to wait months for the state to sign off on the deal since the city of Cookeville owned the property, and then the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services lost his application twice.
Presley thanked TN Rep. Kelly Keisling and Sen. Mark Pody for their work to help the project come to fruition, saying, “These guys have literally fought day and night to help me get this facility open, fight all the bureaucracy and red tape. This is their community, and they’ve worked very diligently to see this happen. Without them, I don’t know that we would have ever got to this point.”
Pody commended Presley for his diligence in seeing the project through.
“As we’ve been taking the journey of this hospital for the past year, Mr. Presley has fought – and fought day and night – when an obstacle came up, he found a way around it, found a way through it, found a way under it, over it,” shared Pody. “Nothing detoured him from getting this hospital open. Whether it be good news or bad news, whether it be early or late, he was on the phone fighting hard for this community. He’d say ‘I’m talking to this hospital or that hospital across the state, but it’s Clay County that I’m from, that I’ve got my connections and I’m here. I want to be here for this community, supporting the community.’ So, he has fought hard.
“I appreciate the fact that the local government, the state government and the federal government were trying to work together, but it seemed the red tape was amazing just to get a hospital open of a needed community that needed a hospital. I just so appreciate what Mr. Presley has done.”
Keisling agreed with Pody’s assessment of the struggles of getting the hospital open.
“At times it’s felt like a marathon,” said Keisling. “The more rural you are, the more challenges you’re faced with. That’s unfortunate, but that’s life, and just how it is living in rural Tennessee. But when you have an event like this, and you feel like you’ve finally reached the finish line, what a thrill it is to sit back and watch this happen. I’m just happy to be here.”
Presley doesn’t plan to stop with the opening of the hospital in Celina, noting the need in Fentress County, among other places in need.
“Once we get this facility up and rolling fairly quickly, our goal is to continue to try and promote this in more rural towns throughout Tennessee,” said Presley.
“He has a vision for what he sees as rural healthcare, and he’s fighting with his own dollars, his own time and money to see it happen,” added Pody.