Roy Exum: Chutzpah At Erlanger

Monday, January 20, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There were the cynics who laughed, I feel certain, when the headline in Sunday’s editions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press revealed Erlanger Hospital’s still-fresh CEO has a vision of building a new and sparkling children’s hospital within the next five-to-seven years. My goodness, Erlanger has lost millions of dollars in the past two years, is being swamped by indigent-care costs, and problem areas still abound. Kevin Spiegel is still putting his executive team in place, for heaven’s sake.

But for those who sense a Phoenix may indeed be rising from the “almost” ashes at our Level One regional trauma center, just the vision of the most pivotal building since the Aquarium began to transform the riverfront 22 years ago, is so brilliant and dripping with chutzpah it is almost intoxicating. Last summer Spiegel introduced the idea to hospital leaders and since then Bruce Komiske, an expert in implementing and designing some of the best pediatric centers in the world, has become a part-time advisor in “the baby steps” towards reality.

Spiegel and Komiske met over ten years ago when the two worked together helping to build a children’s hospital in Westchester, NY. Spiegel, who had become Erlanger’s CEO just four months earlier, knows well what a state-of-the-art children’s hospital means to a community and brought the talented Komiske to Chattanooga, where he showed an eye-popping presentation to hospital trustees and other community leaders.

The first gathering, hosted by Kim White and River City, was intended to “float” the idea and was well-received. The current Children’s Hospital has stood in the Erlanger campus on East Third Street for almost 40 years and the world of health care has changed dramatically since then. Komiske’s designs are fresh and innovative, hardly appearing as a place for the sick, and who doesn’t want the best for our children?

The toughest question is how to pay for such hospital. While Erlanger is rebounding from losses caused by several harrowing years of mismanagement, the main hospital is hardly in a position to break ground anytime soon, but with Chattanooga’s well-noted philanthropy and the city’s unabashed progressive stance, there is enough interest now being generated in small focus groups that there is viable conversation for a new regional pediatric facility.

Erlanger has other pressing needs, indeed, so it is clear a new Children’s Hospital would be a gigantic community project in much the way the Tennessee Aquarium came into being. During Komiske’s first presentation he stressed the people in the community were most responsible for the stunning pediatric centers like the one in Westchester where he first met Spiegel.

Robert Brooks, a promising and energetic guy, has just arrived as the hospital’s new Chief Operating Officer, which will ease the executive burden that Spiegel, Gregg Gentry and Brett Tabor have shared for the past year. Spiegel expects to add several others on his executive team within the next three months.

In December a high-tech operating room – one of three like it in the country -- was installed at Children’s and a $25 million surgery center is being constructed at Erlanger. “We have a lot of things we need to do,” said Spiegel, “but the idea of a new Children’s Hospital is something that we really need to be looking at if we are going to best serve the region.”

As he explained the rationale behind a campaign for Children’s Hospital, it hardly sounded brash or far-fetched. It is exactly what Kevin Spiegel was brought to Erlanger to do and as he reverses losses, brings in new physicians, and launches new services, what is wrong with such a dream?

royexum@aol.com


The Real King Makers Are On The Fairbanks Side

I read a recent letter from Roy Burrage on the Chattanoogan bemoaning campaign cash that was his fourth hit piece on the Chattanoogan about Rhonda Thurman.  I think that shows he has some personal vendetta against Ms. Thurman.    In any event, in this hit piece the writer told several blatant lies. We all know Roy has a flair for the dramatic so that in itself ... (click for more)

Patsy Hazlewood Supports 2nd Amendment Rights - And Response

As a District 27 voter I am supporting Patsy Hazlewood for state representative because I know she will protect our second amendment rights in Tennessee.  Patsy fully supports the Tennessee laws which do not impede the right to carry arms.  I recently heard Patsy speak and she very clearly said, under no circumstance would she vote in opposition to the second amendment ... (click for more)

EPB Says It Did Not Overbill The City; Says City Got $685,877 Break

EPB officials said Tuesday that an exhaustive audit of its street light contract with the city showed that it did not overbill the city. Instead, it said it found that the city was underbilled $685,877. EPB said it only goes back one year on errors so the amount owed by the city would be $178,314. Officials said that would be discussed with the city. Stan Sewell, the city's ... (click for more)

History Center Gets $400,000 Grant From National Endowment For The Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded grants totaling more than $800,000 to three Tennessee projects that aim to display and preserve historical materials. Winning grants Monday included the Chattanooga History Center, which will get $400,000 to install a permanent, multimedia exhibit on the history of Chattanooga. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will ... (click for more)

Vols Open 2018 Season Against West Virginia In Charlotte

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.   – The Charlotte Sports Foundation announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Volunteers will open the 2018 season on September 1 against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. All information related to kickoff date, time and tickets will be announced at ... (click for more)

Local Swimmers Excel At Georgia, Tennessee State Meets

Several Chattanooga-area swimmers had successful weekends in various meets this past weekend. The McCallie/GPS Aquatics team finished sixth out of 50 teams at the Southeastern Swimming Championship in Knoxville while swimmers from Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold also had memorable performances at the Georgia State Meet, also held last weekend. The McCallie/GPS team recorded ... (click for more)