Hospital eager for improved facility

Dr. W. John Zehner, medical director at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, speaks Tuesday morning during the groundbreaking ceremony for the hospital's new emergency department and medical office complex. The construction is scheduled to be completed in May 2016. At left rear is Floyd Heater, president of Shenandoah Memorial, Mark H. Merrill, president and CEO of Valley Health System, and Dr. Audrea Wynn, president of Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Medical Staff. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — At a groundbreaking in Woodstock on Tuesday, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital President Floyd Heater carried with him a symbol of fortune.

Protected within an old frame, the four-leaf clover included a written description that placed it at the hospital’s groundbreaking on Nov. 13, 1949.

“It certainly is vintage,” Heater told a bystander moving in for a closer look.

A keepsake of then Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Harold Miller Sr., the clover again made history Tuesday when Valley Health broke ground on a new emergency room and medical office building, slated to be completed in May 2016.

The Miller family has offered a “thread of continuity” through Shenandoah Memorial’s 65-year history, Heater said.

An excavator loads a dump truck as site work begins on the new emergency room and medical office complex at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock on Tuesday. The project is scheduled to be completed in May 2016. Rich Cooley/Daily

Miller’s daughter Kim Shrum is an emergency department nurse, his son was a surgeon and his granddaughter Jenna Robinson is a registered nurse.

“It’s kind of nice,” Heater said.

It’s the sort of story indicative of the hospital’s place in the community, said Mary Beth Price, chair of the hospital board of trustees, who spoke at Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

“We all have real life stories that are connected with SMH, our community hospital,” she said.

So far, along with its goal of raising $1 million toward emergency room technology, the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Foundation has raised $720,000, said Rick Glading, co-chair of the capital campaign.

Floyd Heater, president of Shenandoah Memorial, holds a framed four-leaf clover that was picked at the groundbreaking of Shenandoah Hospital in 1949. Heater carried the article in his coat pocket during the ceremony Tuesday in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“This is a great start,” Glading said, “but we still have a long way to go.”

Tuesday’s ceremony kicked off the third of the hospital’s notable additions in recent years, said Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill.

In 2002, Valley Health partnered with the hospital and in 2005 began the building of a surgical facility. Praising surgical staff for their exceptional work in the space available, Merrill said it’s time to build a larger facility to accommodate the community’s needs.

The hospital has already come a long way since its earlier years in 1960s and ’70s, when Dr. W. John Zehner recalled it was little more than a single room.

When Shrum joined the hospital in the late 1980s, emergency room staff would telephone attending doctors to drive over from their nearby family practices.

Virginia state delegate Todd Gilbert, left, chats with Floyd Heater, center, president of Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, and U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte, right, during groundbreaking ceremonies Tuesday morning at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital. Rich Cooley/Daily

Her father had one such practice, and when the hospital first opened, she said, he still made house calls.

Long in coming, the new $17.5 million state-of-the-art facility will provide patients greater access to community care in one location and increase the hospital’s 12 semi-private curtained exam rooms to 17 private ones with walls and televisions, Zehner said.

Rooms will offer uniform equipment and supplies, he said, and staff won’t have to whisper anymore to protect a patient’s privacy.

The additional space of the 45,851 square feet facility will provide room to grow in a space designed for the staff, said Dr. Jack Potter, medical director of Emergency Services for Valley Health System.

“It really will be as good as you will find in America,” he said. “And you won’t find a better ER anywhere.”

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte, left, stands beside Mary Beth Price, chair of the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, following groundbreaking ceremonies Tuesday morning for the hospital's new emergency department and medical office building. Rich Cooley/Daily

The general contractor is Howard Shockey & Sons. Physician practices planning to occupy the new building are Woodstock Internal Medicine, Eye Care Physicians and Surgeons, Mt. View Orthopedics/Woodstock, Woodstock Surgical Clinic, Shenandoah Medicine, Shenandoah Family Practice, Shenandoah Valley OB/GYN, Shenandoah Multi-Specialty Clinic and Shenandoah Urology.

A medical imaging suite will be accessible to the emergency department as well as to patients who need tests before and after physician appointments.

Anticipating the improved space for hospital care, Potter said he hasn’t been told yet what might become of the old emergency room.

Though turning to Zehner, he said, “I’d like to see a nice new cafeteria.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com