Photos Rob Smith and Redmond Regional Hospital archives
July 4, 1972. Fifty years ago. That marked the opening of Redmond Park Hospital, which became, in time, AdventHealth Redmond. Just a few days before, on June 26th, more than 10,000 locals showed up at the invitation of the hospital’s first administrator, Ed Tinnermon, for a preview of the new building and to take part in open house festivities.
From a platform festooned in patriotic colors, Congressman John W. Davis greeted the crowd with a keynote address on the history of the medical industry in Rome, Georgia. Then the congressman helped cut the ceremonial ribbon, and the doors were opened. Tinnermon invited the thousands of visitors to “comb the building.” The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) had brought a new hospital to Northwest Georgia.
During its opening week, Redmond Park Hospital took in its inaugural patient, a Berry College employee, George R. Reynolds. A photo of a very relaxed-looking Reynolds, laying in a hospital bed, getting his pulse taken by a LPN, appeared in the Rome News-Tribune on Sunday, July 9, 1972.
Fast-forwarding through time brings us to another important day for this institution, October 1, 2021. That is the day when Redmond became part of AdventHealth. In a recent issue of Northwest Georgia Health, Mike Murrill, president, and chief executive officer of AdventHealth’s Southern Region, said, “At AdventHealth, our spark is wholeness.
Our goal may be to provide world-class health care in our hospitals and outpatient settings, but we also recognize that the overall health of our communities is so much bigger than what’s taking place at our hospitals and in our clinics.” The vital connection between the individual patient, the healthcare industry, and the local community is a common thread that runs through the service philosophy of Redmond’s founders and that of AdventHealth.
It’s a continuation—a carryover—from 1972 into the 21st century. Murrill went on to say, “Feeling whole is a journey that involves the alignment of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. And whether you’re coming in for a medical visit or training to run your first 5k, our goal is to help you feel whole. Whether you’re having surgery or cheering from the sidelines at your grandchild’s baseball game, we all desire to feel whole.”
What’s in a name?
Under different circumstances, Redmond may have been called Pineview Hospital or Coosa Valley Hospital. When the original plans for the hospital were under development, the planners noted a large number of tall pine trees in the Rome area. To them, Pineview seemed a logical choice. A little investigation, however, revealed that the name was somewhat popular among medical institutions in Georgia, there already being two nursing homes and another hospital that called themselves that. The planners came up with new alternatives, narrowed them down to two names, and decided to let the public choose.
On Sunday, November 28, 1971, a small piece entitled Name sought for hospital appeared in the Rome News-Tribune. In part, it read: “A ballot printed on Page 8E of today’s News-Tribune offers a choice of two names now under consideration—Redmond Park Hospital and Coosa Valley Hospital. The name which gets the most votes will be selected.”
Readers were invited to scissor out the ballot, mark their selection, and mail the clipping to a P.O. box. In that same article, Tinnermon said, “I feel it is important for the people of the community to participate in the choice. This is their hospital, and we want them to pick a name they like. I hope everyone in the community will express a preference.” In a subsequent article, Tinnermon said he was amazed at the large number of ballots cast and that “that balloting was overwhelmingly slanted in favor of naming the institution Redmond Park.”
Good bones, aged well
Though the main building of AdventHealth Redmond is thoroughly modern in every way and has been vastly expanded over the last five decades, the early structure (built on 20 acres purchased from Berry College) can still be imagined behind the building’s present facade. Originally, Redmond Park Hospital’s exterior was a creamy white with powder blue panels beneath the windows. Its architecture featured a T-shaped design with three wings.
The east wing was the administrative section, home to office staff, nursing, and hospital records; the west wing was food services; the south wing was surgery, X-ray, pharmacy, physical and inhalation therapy, housekeeping, maintenance, and a doctors’ lounge. In those early years, Redmond offered an average of fifty beds, but after the purchase and closing of McCall Hospital, Redmond grew into a 150-bed hospital.
That first decade of Redmond Park Hospital not only saw growth in its physical structures (such as a fifth floor added) but also in the services it provided. During the 1970s, Redmond established its first cardiovascular laboratory, expanded its cardiopulmonary services department, and opened a four-bed intensive care unit. It also started and expanded a radiology department, a critical care unit, an emergency room, and a recovery room.
In the 1980s, the hospital’s name was changed to Redmond Regional Medical Center. During that decade, Redmond inaugurated a new ambulance service, opened an oncology unit, and began using its first CAT scan (Computerized Axial Tomography). Redmond doctors were the first in Rome to perform microvascular surgery.
There was a large expansion to Redmond in the 1990s. A $31 million construction project added considerable capacity to the ICU and CCU, and the emergency room and outpatient areas were expanded. Both a sleep center and a neuroscience laboratory were established. Polk General Hospital joined the Redmond Network.
Redmond made great strides forward in the 2000s. It opened the Sydney A. Bell Joint Center, added MRI services, opened Wound Care and the Hyperbaric Center, opened a 34-bed medical/surgical unit, and opened an outpatient rehabilitation unit in West Rome. Redmond also opened a 20-bed inpatient physical rehabilitation unit and became the 911 provider for Polk County and Chattooga County. The new ICU West Unit opened. It was also a decade for accolades and awards. Redmond EMS won Georgia Service of the Year, the Breast Center was designated as a Breast Center of Excellence, and the Chest Pain Center was accredited.
Staying the course
A testimony to the quality of any workplace is the long tenure of its employees. Redmond has several employees in different departments whose service to the hospital goes back many years, even decades. One of these goes all the way back to day one. Her name is Wanda Whitten, and after 50 faithful years, she’s still on the job. Whitten was hired away from her job as the dietary educational director of Vanderbilt University to take on the role of the first director of the dietary department at Redmond Park Hospital.
“I came with the brick,” she likes to say. That is, she has been there as long as the building has. When she first arrived for her interview, she came into the building from the rear; the space was dark and the floor was still dirt. She says, “My mom and dad came with me. My father had to light our way from the back to the front with a cigarette lighter.”
Whitten made her mark on the medical institution, helping to shape its character and reputation through her energetic, high-quality work. Today she works as an event planner for the hospital. (Though no longer in food service, Whitten’s banana pudding is still a sought-after treat by members of the present staff). A member of the maintenance crew says, “Word is, when someone gets a seat on the hospital board, they’re told ‘Now you WFW—Work for Wanda.’”
One true sign of her significance to Redmond is the naming of the Wanda J. Whitten Guest House (commonly known as Heart House), a place where the families of critically ill patients can stay.
Leading with the heart
In the last decade, Redmond has reinforced its reputation as “The Heart Hospital” of Northwest Georgia. It has long been at the forefront of cardiovascular care, having performed its first open-heart surgery in 1986. It now averages about 300 such surgeries every year, according to Marsha Colwell, vice president of cardiovascular services. In Northwest Georgia Health, Colwell said, “The growth of AdventHealth Redmond’s cardiovascular program has continued to keep pace with the nation’s latest advancements in technologies, treatments, medications, and research over the past several decades.”
Redmond has an electrophysiology lab (for the treatment of irregular heart rhythms), two cardiothoracic surgical units, five cath labs, a cardiac procedure unit, and provides cardiac rehabilitation services. In Northwest Georgia Health, Destiny Howe, manager of Advent Health Gordon’s cardiac catheterization lab and interventional radiology said, “Redmond offers a full array of comprehensive heart care services.”
Referring to the cooperation between AdventHealth’s hospitals in Rome, Murray County, and Gordon County, Howe said, “You would be hard-pressed to find a cardiac problem or heart issue between the three hospitals that we could not care for and care for you completely. We offer the ability to receive excellent care close to home. You do not have to go to the big cities to get the same caliber of care and the same access to the same opportunities,”
Into the community
In an effort to reach beyond its hospital campus and into the wider Northwest Georgia area, AdventHealth has started numerous support groups and classes through its facilities in Rome, Murray County, and Gordon County. The Cancer and Caregiver Support Group provides a safe and confidential environment in which cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their caregivers can have conversations about all the challenges they face.
The Diabetes Management Group is a free class that educates those diagnosed with diabetes on such things as blood glucose monitoring, active living, healthy diet, and proper medication. The Childbirth Education and Breastfeeding Classes help parents know what to expect throughout pregnancy, and before, during, and after delivery. Beautiful You helps women who are in the process of cancer treatment, encouraging them to receive help for their physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.
These classes and support groups are only a small part of an array of offerings from AdventHealth that help Northwest Georgians live healthier, happier, more productive lives. For the last half-century, Redmond has strived to do just that. The name of the institution may have changed more than once, but the spirit and the mission have remained the same. Help. Healing. Wholeness. Those are the goals. The challenges and opportunities continue to be met with a determination to see to the patients’ best good, to bring health to body, mind, and spirit.