This week, May 12-18, is National Hospital Week, which gives me an opportunity to talk about hospitals, healthcare, and my teammates — three topics that are near and dear to me.

In some ways, healthcare is a constant, as it is needed by everyone at some point in their lives. In other ways, healthcare is ever evolving as we continue to see changes in what and how we provide care. The largest changes for our health system over the last year have been to make sure that we were growing to our community’s increased needs. It’s been a year and nine months since Davis Regional Medical Center closed for acute care services in August of 2022. When our team heard about this pending challenge, we projected the additional volume that would come toward Iredell and started promptly planning and enacting change.

Looking back, our projections were pretty close to reality over the last 21 months, with the most challenging projection being the increased emergency department (ED) volume. As has been stated in other articles and press releases, we immediately initiated an expansion project to grow by creating an additional 10 rooms in the ED. Recognizing that this takes a significant period of time to accomplish, we also worked on staffing and patient flow to improve the potential and sometimes real bottleneck that can occur in EDs. We also opened an extended hours urgent care in Statesville to help accommodate this additional after-hours need.

I am pleased that all of those tasks have been completed, including the new ED rooms which opened the first week of May. I applaud and am so proud of our team for keeping it together during this transition since construction can cause daily challenges through room closures, noise, and interruptions. In fact, over the last few months our team has actually provided emergency care in a timelier manner per patient than we had done prior to the other hospital’s closure. In 2022, the average time a patient spent in the emergency department from the time they arrived until the time they left was 3 hours and 9 minutes, slightly below the national average. In 2024, however, we have reduced that time to under 3 hours. That is incredible and good for our community!

Another significant issue this past year was the closing of the surgical center on Davie Avenue, which created another bottleneck at the hospital with respect to the number of surgical cases. Our goal was to ensure that patients could stay local for their care, so every possible attempt was made to provide that additional care here. Again, I am so pleased with our team’s resilience and willingness to be flexible and provide great care to all of those patients too. I am also pleased to say that as of early May, Iredell Health System has purchased Iredell Surgical Center and will be working to reinitiate surgical services at that location promptly.

As we continue to grow in different directions, we also recognize the need to prepare the next generation of healthcare workers. We have increased the number of students at our organization to over 800 in many different fields, spending time throughout the health system learning their trade. We are also excited to launch a residency program for internal medicine physicians that is projected to begin in 2025. More to come on that, but it’s very exciting for our health system and the community as we develop and strengthen the local healthcare workforce.

These are just three examples of the ever-evolving concept of healthcare, and if I was writing a book instead of a column, I could give you examples from every department throughout our growing organization. While these are sometimes frustrating challenges, Iredell Health and all 1,800-plus of our teammates are solely focused on keeping healthcare local. As an independent health system created by the citizens of Iredell County, we aim to create opportunities that allow those in need to be treated close to home. We understand that means not just saying that we are here, but showing great quality, competency, caring, and timeliness that is important to you, the community.

All those descriptions fit our 1,800-plus teammates in concept and what I get to see every day on the two campuses and more than 32 sites of care that are part of Iredell Health System. As we celebrate National Hospital Week, it really is a true testament to all of these hard-working individuals who strive to care for our neighbors, friends, and loved ones. It is that personal to us!

Please join me in thanking all the team at Iredell Health for what they do day in and day out, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

For the community, thank you for placing your trust in us. We will continue to grow and develop new options to keep healthcare local — that is the sole reason we exist. I hope you all stay healthy, but when you have a healthcare need, we are here for you!

 John Green is the president & CEO of Iredell Health System.