Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center began a multi-month observance of the hospital’s 100th anniversary with a reception on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The charter for the downtown Knoxville hospital, built on the site of the historic Civil War Battle of Fort Sanders, was signed in 1919 and the first patients were admitted on February 23, 1920.
The kick-off event included remarks from Fort Sanders Regional and Covenant Health leaders, a proclamation from the State of Tennessee and remarks from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, and a display of memorabilia and photos from years past.
Keith Altshuler, president and chief administrative officer of Fort Sanders Regional, acknowledged the vision and dedication of physicians and staff, past and present.
“I’m certain the physicians who founded Fort Sanders Hospital 100 years ago couldn’t possibly envision the magnitude of their accomplishments as they stand today,” Altshuler said, “but as we reflect on an inspiring 100-year history, I am confident that we have many more accomplishments ahead in the next 100 years.”
In the past century, Fort Sanders Regional has admitted an estimated 750,000 patients, performed 400,000 surgeries and helped bring 125,000 babies into the world. The number of visits to the hospital’s emergency department over the course of 100 years is more than a million.
The hospital has undergone several construction and expansion projects through the years and is in the process of growing again. A $115-million dollar project is underway to nearly double the capacity of the hospital’s emergency department. The expansion will also add two floors to the hospital’s Center for Advanced Medicine for critical care services.
“This project is specifically designed to meet the needs of a growing downtown community, city and region that needs and deserves additional emergency care resources in light of downtown-area hospital closures over the past several years,” said Jim VanderSteeg, president and CEO of Covenant Health, the parent company of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.
The new additions will open in spring 2020, capping several months of celebrating the 100th anniversary.
A century of firsts
“Even before the hospital opened its doors, an affiliated School of Nursing was established to train nurses for our area,” Altshuler said. “Soon after the hospital opened in 1920, Fort Sanders Hospital offered the area’s first private ambulance service and had the first neonatal incubator to give premature babies a fighting chance. During World War II, Fort Sanders Hospital was the first private hospital in the area to receive the new ‘wonder drug,’ penicillin.”
Through the years, Fort Sanders Regional has continued to add services to meet local needs. Those services include the award-winning Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and Thompson Cancer Survival Center.
Altshuler noted that both centers provide specialized care close to home, reflecting the hospital’s commitment to the community. The hospital also continues to focus on innovation today, including offering the latest technology and treatments as the hub of Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network.
“Throughout all the blessings of our historic growth, I’m most proud that Fort Sanders Regional is known for providing compassionate care to the patients and families who come through our doors,” Altshuler said. “We were built for our community and we are growing for our community, keeping in mind that our patients always come first.”
Counting on Covenant Health
In the 1980s, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center’s leaders began to see a growing need for coordinated health services, not just in Knoxville, but in the surrounding area. The result was the creation of Fort Sanders Health System, an organization that included several area hospitals and a variety of outpatient services and specialties. In 1996, Fort Sanders Health System consolidated with Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge to create Covenant Health.
“Since that time, Covenant Health has become the top performing healthcare system in the region and serves over a million patients each year,” VanderSteeg said. “We’re the largest employer in the area with over 11,000 employees, and Covenant Health has been recognized five times by Forbes as a top employer.”
VanderSteeg said the anniversary celebration is more than a recognition of an organization that’s grown and changed – it’s a celebration of an organization that is still flourishing after a century.
“Three things will not change,” VanderSteeg said. “Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center will continue to be known for its commitment to the community, for innovation and for caring for each patient we are privileged to serve.”
Jay Fitzsimmons, chairman of the board of directors for Covenant Health, spoke of the many stories that have come from Fort Sanders Regional.
“The hospital will continue to write new chapters for future stories of caring and healing for this community,” Fitzsimmons said. “These stories will build on a strong legacy and on Covenant Health’s Pledge of Excellence in order to accomplish new goals.”
The pledge of Excellence is a commitment to put patients first, strive for excellence and to be the first and best choice for healthcare.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally called Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center “a beacon of excellence for patients throughout our region and beyond.” He referenced a proclamation honoring Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on the occasion of its 100th anniversary and 100 years of excellence in health care.
“Our state is built on a legacy of innovation and service to others. With its history of medical innovations and community service, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center exemplifies that legacy,” McNally said.
Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, a member of Knoxville-based Covenant Health, is a 541-bed regional referral center for neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, oncology, cardiology, obstetrics and rehabilitation medicine. For more information, visit www.fsregional.com.