Ballad Health announces launch of regional Niswonger Children’s Network

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health unveiled an investment into children’s healthcare for the entire Tri-Cities region Thursday morning.

Officials with Ballad Health announced the launch of Niswonger Children’s Network during an announcement. The network will provide a higher level of comprehensive healthcare across the region for children.

Courtesy: Ballad Health

You can watch News Channel 11’s livestream of the announcement below:

The launch of Niswonger Children’s Network represents an investment of almost $60 million from Ballad Health.

The Niswonger Children’s Network will allow better care and services to be offered for children in both Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Ballad Health Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine said the healthcare provider plans to secure at least $17 million in gifts toward the network to help its growth. $9 million of that total has already been secured, due in part to a $7 million gift from the J.D. Nicewonder family, according to Levine.

Courtesy: Ballad Health

Levine also announced Niswonger Children’s Hospital will expand by adding two stories that will feature a new Center for Perinatal and Neonatal Care and Center for Pediatric Specialties. This expansion to the hospital is possible due to a commitment from the J.D. Nicewonder family, according to Levine.

Courtesy: Ballad Health

Ballad Health said the creation of the Niswonger Children’s Network launches a new era for rural healthcare in the region. The network means new services for women and children are coming to Ballad locations in Tennessee and Virginia.

“Today what we’re showing is that we’re going even beyond good healthcare. We’re trying to actually improve child well-being on top of just having good healthcare,” said Levine.

On Thursday afternoon, the conversion of Indian Path Community Hospital into a Center for Women and Babies was announced by Ballad leaders. Additionally, a new pediatric emergency department will be added to the Kingsport hospital.

A Center for Women and Babies is announced at Indian Path Community Hospital

Lindy White, president of Ballad’s Northwest Market and CEO of Kingsport Operations, said design meetings are now happening for the construction and modernization of a pediatric emergency department.

“We’re going to have that dedicated care experience and actually be able to offer a higher level of acute services for emergencies for our children, right here in Kingsport,” said White.

In Greeneville, the former Takoma Regional Hospital will soon serve as a home for the Strong Futures Program. It will offer treatment and housing for mothers suffering from addiction or behavioral health issues.

The Children’s Resource Center will also be expanding from Niswonger Children’s Hospital to Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon.

Also through the network – $8 million in advanced robotics surgery technology will be purchased. These robots will go to Holston Valley Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, and Bristol Regional Medical Center.

Niswonger Children’s Network also involves a greater partnership between Ballad Health and ETSU. The healthcare system says this allowed them to attract two new pediatric surgeons to the children’s hospital.

Ballad said this means there are now three of these trauma-capable surgeons in the region – the most in its history.

Levine said the creation of the children’s network throughout the region has been a goal for years.

“When we consolidated the NICU at Niswonger, remember, there was a lot of folks that didn’t agree with that decision. But this was the vision behind it, was having a place where you can have that kind of coordination of care, collaboration between all these pediatric specialists, this is why we wanted to do that,” Levine said.

“And it opened the door to now creating these other centers of excellence throughout the region that now coordinate with this high acuity center for perinatal and neonatal care.”

Both Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam provided pre-recorded statements at Thursday’s briefing.

“As the Governor of Tennessee, I am committed to investing in our state’s rural communities and strengthening Tennessee families. Today, we celebrate and support the Niswonger Children’s Network, which will bring care to the youngest Tennesseans of this region. The investments announced today by Ballad Health, paired with the generous contribution of $7 million from the J.D. Nicewonder family, amounts to tens of millions of dollars that will provide important support for mothers, children in need and high-risk newborns in our state. These gifts speak to the work of the Ballad Health team, the special nature of Niswonger Children’s Hospital and now, the Niswonger Children’s Network.”

Gov. Bill Lee

“As a pediatric neurologist, I know how important it is for families to have access to the best care possible, no matter where they live. Today’s announcement by Ballad Health will advance the health and well-being of children and families throughout the Appalachian Highlands. I could not be prouder that fellow Virginians, the J.D. Nicewonder family, stepped forward to pledge $7 million to support this great initiative, which spans across both state and county lines. The Niswonger Children’s Network is not only about improving hospital and specialty care, it’s about helping kids thrive. For example, with the support of Ballad Health, children and families in Southwest Virginia will benefit from Ballad Health’s investment today in Virginia Kids Belong. Ballad Health Foundation and Niswonger Children’s Network are transforming the health of our communities and creating brighter futures for generations to come.”

Gov. Ralph Northam

Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey also provided statements on the importance of the Niswonger Children’s Network. She spoke on the importance of the expansion of services to rural Tennesseans.

“I grew up in rural Tennessee and trained to become a doctor at East Tennessee State University, and my passion is serving as a pediatrician. My children were born in Northeast Tennessee, where they were served by the Perinatal Center at Johnson City Medical Center. So, today’s announcement of tens of millions of dollars of investment into the region’s services for women and babies – an investment that will benefit every family in the region – hits home for me, as a mother, as a physician and as someone who is charged to improve the health of all Tennesseans. On behalf of all Tennesseans, I want to thank the J.D. Nicewonder family from Virginia for their extremely generous gift to Ballad Health – a gift they gave because of their confidence in the vision of Ballad Health and the Niswonger Children’s Network. The measure of any region can be determined by two things: how they educate their children and how they care for their mothers and children. Today is evidence that Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia can measure up to any community in the nation.”

Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee Commissioner of Health

This is a developing story. Look for updates on WJHL.com.

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