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CLAYTON — Johnston Health Clayton celebrated its 10th anniversary on Oct. 1. Community leaders, hospital board members, administrators and employees gathered in front of the cafeteria to enjoy a two-tier cake shaped like the building and reflect on the facility’s rapid growth and what itd presence has meant to Clayton and Johnston County.
“Since early 2000, Clayton had been part of Johnston Health’s strategic plan for expanding access to health care services,” said Johnston Health spokeswoman Suzette Rodriquez. “Our board saw the growth coming to Clayton, Cleveland and the surrounding communities.”
The outpatient center and freestanding emergency department opened Oct. 1, 2009, was 51,000 square feet and cost $40 million. In addition to the emergency department, the outpatient center offered same-day surgery along with lab services and medical imaging.
With the opening of the three-story inpatient wing in January 2014, Johnston Health Clayton became a full-service hospital. In addition to the 50 beds, the hospital opened a cafeteria, gift shop, chapel and pharmacy. The first patient was admitted Jan. 14.
Clayton emergency room director Daniel Register has been on staff since the beginning and recalled the first day of operation.
“It was 6:15 a.m. and chaplain Gregory McLamb came and offered a blessing of the hands,” said Register. “We then took rocks with our names on them and placed them in the spillway. It was very emotional. This hospital has been a lighthouse for Johnston County. It has made a difference for this community, which has a hospital to meet its needs.”
One hospital employee even found marriage.
Emergency room technician Rachel Cook recalled a staff meeting in May 2010 that she almost didn’t attend.
“I was led to the front of the room with my eyes closed and sat in a chair,” said Cook. “When I opened my eyes, there was my boyfriend Tim on one knee with roses and a ring. My mom was also there. I said to myself, ‘Oh my goodness, they really got me good.’ Of course, I said yes.”
They were married on Nov. 5, 2011 and have two daughters.
Cook started work at the hospital in August 2009 and worked through September to get things ready for the hospital’s opening.
Dr. Eric Janis, hospital board chairman, said the Clayton facility has been a wonderful addition to Johnston County’s medical community.
“Twenty years ago, we knew we needed to expand health care and serve Clayton,” said Janis. “We had a great leadership with tremendous foresight. As Clayton and Johnston County continued to grow, it was obvious this was needed.”
Today, Janis said Johnston Health Clayton is a full-service hospital, providing a range of services excluding cardiac catheterizations and inpatient dialysis.
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod said the hospital has been great for his town.
“As Clayton is celebrating its 150th anniversary, Johnston Health Clayton is a big part of that,” said McLeod. “This hospital is providing quality health care for Clayton and the rest of Johnston County.”
McLeod said the hospital is part of Clayton’s vision to provide a high quality of life for its residents.
“The hospital has been a huge economic driving force for Clayton,” said McLeod. “ The hospital means Clayton is a place where people and industries can invest their lives. I’m excited about the future of this hospital.”
Johnston Health President and CEO Chuck Elliott said Johnston Health’s expansion of its partnership with UNC Rex will expand the organizations’ long history of collaboration to enhance care, improve outcomes and increase access for patients in Johnston and Wake counties.
“We’ve worked with Rex on different projects,” said Elliott. “One project we’re working on is a new primary and urgent care facility at Flowers Crossroads, east of Clayton. It should be open in February.”
Brice Helms enabled the guests to eat cake. A Johnston Health Clayton courier, Helms has been a cake baker for 35 years. He designed a huge cake in the shape of the hospital building. Even the awnings, which were made of fondant, were edible.
“I started on the cake a week ago, said Helms. “I studied photos and blueprints of when the hospital was first built. The cake has chocolate, vanilla and strawberry batter.”
Helms said his baking is a hobby, not a livelihood. Everyone seemed to enjoy devouring the replica hospital.