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ARHS names Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower in honor of lead gift

ARHS names Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower in honor of lead gift

Photo: WMC Hospital Expansion Exterior_SchaeferName_1200x675

June 10, 2021

Many things come to mind when the names Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer are spoken – savvy business acumen, dedication to their faith community, as well as support for the arts, women’s causes, animal welfare, higher education and more. Especially in the High Country, the Schaefer family name evokes gratitude for the incredible philanthropy, support and wisdom they give to their community.

The Schaefers have been great friends to Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) throughout the years. They both recently experienced significant health challenges and turned to ARHS to walk with them through their journey of healing.

For a total of 70 days and nights over the last two years, Bonnie and Jamie considered the hospitalists, doctors and nurses at Watauga Medical Center to be their extended family, describing them as “our angels with invisible wings who provided comfort and care on a daily basis.”

While the Schaefers have the means and opportunity to seek healthcare from anywhere in the world, they trusted Appalachian Regional Healthcare System with life-saving medical care, chronic disease management, surgical services, emergency care, intensive care — as well as several other service lines and specialists. Fortunately, they are both on the road to good health and they only return to the hospital for routine care these days.

But while they were in the hospital, they realized that the world-class healthcare they received from the people of Watauga Medical Center didn’t necessarily match the aging physical building.

Photo: Steve Weishoff, Jamie and Bonnie Schaefer, Marla Schaefer

Left to Right: Steve Weishoff, Jamie and Bonnie Schaefer, Marla Schaefer

“They say people make a place and it’s a good thing, because the core hospital, built in 1967, is dated, in disrepair and in need of improvement,” said Bonnie.

“Watauga Medical Center offers life-saving medical care to those living in the High Country,” said Jamie. “The patients and healthcare professionals need and deserve a new, state-of-the-art hospital.”

The couple recently returned to the hospital – their “home away from home” – to thank the hospital family, including doctors, nurses, dietary staff, lab technicians, cleaning staff, and the chaplain.

And in a tradition as long-standing as the Schaefer family itself, they are taking steps to ensure that everyone continues to receive the same high standard of care they did – for generations to come – in a brand new, modern patient care tower.

Bonnie and Jamie are joining together with their family, Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff, to give a three-million-dollar gift for the future Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower at Watauga Medical Center.

“I would like to thank Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff for their generosity in providing the lead gift for a new 48-bed hospital tower,” said Rob Hudspeth, President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation and Sr. Vice President for System Advancement for ARHS. “This historic investment will fuel the future of healthcare in the High Country, ensure access to continued technological improvements and allow us to reimagine our community hospital to address the ever-changing world of healthcare.

To learn more about the hospital expansion project, visit For more information about the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, visit

Watauga Medical Center and Cancer Center Entrance and Parking Updates

Watauga Medical Center and Cancer Center Entrance and Parking Updates

Cancer Center Entrance Map

Click to enlarge map

Update: May 26, 2021

Beginning June 1, Mary Street will close and the new Medical Center Drive will open. All Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center patients and ambulances should enter from Medical Center Drive. There will be no public access to the hospital from the Medical Center Drive entrance or from the Cancer Center lot.

Watauga Medical Center patients and visitors should continue to enter through the main entrance on Deerfield Road.

The week of June 7-11, the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center parking lot will be closed due to construction. Patients will be notified of the new parking location and shuttles will be available directly to the door of the Cancer Center.


Original article: March 3, 2021

In preparation for a new hospital patient bed tower, Watauga Medical Center will experience changes to the entrances, exits and parking lots over the next few months. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) announced that construction on the new patient bed tower began this week.

“The expansion project represents a $100 million investment in the health of Watauga County,” said Rob Hudspeth, SVP of System Advancement for ARHS. “The first phase – a new Heart and Vascular Center – was completed in August of 2020. Phase two, in progress, includes construction of the new central energy plant. Phase three calls for construction of a new medical bed tower, which we are excited to start this March.”

Traffic and Parking Changes

Beginning March 11th, traffic into Watauga Medical Center, including the Emergency Department, will flow one way (two lanes) into the main parking lot entrance closest to the hospital. Leaving the hospital, drivers should exit to Deerfield Road through the parking lot’s side exit. Signage will be posted.

All Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center patients and ambulances should enter from Mary Street and park in the existing parking spaces. There will be no public access to the hospital from the Mary Street entrance or from the Cancer Center lot.

Patient and Visitor Entrance Changes

Hospital patients and visitors, including Emergency Department walk-ins, should enter the building through the temporary main front entrance doors close to the newly constructed canopy and walkway beside the Heart & Vascular Center.

The usual Emergency Department entrance patients and visitors have been using for the past year will be closed on March 10th.

ARHS is attempting to limit the inconvenience for the community while proceeding with these much-needed improvements and additions to the hospital facility.

Haven’t felt like yourself in a while? Help is just a click or call away

Haven’t felt like yourself in a while? Help is just a click or call away

One in four American adults are affected by a mental illness each year, yet only about half of those people are treated for it. Significant barriers include shortage of mental health (also called behavioral health) professionals and access to care. Other obstacles include fear of embarrassment, affordability, lack of transportation, and apathy.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is working to mitigate the shortage of resources with the opening of a free-standing 27-bed psychiatric hospital in the fall of 2021. The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital will accept adults ages 18-64 by referral or walk-in.

The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health (ARBH) team of therapists and providers offer multiple resources for treating mild to severe mental health disorders in the High Country. Outpatient Behavioral Health is located inside Sloop Medical Office Plaza in Linville, and inpatient treatment is currently located within Cannon Memorial Hospital. However, navigating the steps to get help is sometimes intimidating and overwhelming for someone who is already struggling. It can also be frustrating and may seem hopeless for loved ones trying to help.

Behavioral Health Help


When and how to get help


Eva Trivett-Clark, ARBH Program Manager, shares guidance for those concerned they or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition. “A general rule of thumb [for symptoms] is any noticeable increase or decrease in behaviors, thoughts or feelings,” Trivett-Clark said. “An increase in behavior might include talking rapidly, pacing or sleeping too much. A decrease in typical behavior may include such things as withdrawal from family and friends, sleeping too little or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Any suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors should be evaluated immediately by calling 911 or going to the local Emergency Department (ED).”

In crisis situations, the ARBH team offers crisis stabilization and disposition for patients presenting at the Emergency Department. From that point, an evaluation will determine the next steps for treatment, which could include a admittance to a psychiatric hospital if needed. When the new psychiatric inpatient hospital opens, patients in crisis will be able to come directly to the hospital for evaluation.

Currently, there are 10 inpatient beds available (in a 40-mile radius) at Cannon Memorial Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. This unit treats adults with more acute symptoms. There, patients can begin recovering and rebuilding in a safe, controlled environment that is fully equipped to provide psychiatric evaluation, medication management, individualized treatment planning and group therapy.

Behavioral Health telehealth For less severe symptoms, getting help is as simple as calling ARBH at (828) 737-7888 or requesting an appointment online. No referral is needed.  Completing the depression screening tool, available on the website, is often a good place to start in determining whether one needs help.

Although, the wait time to meet an outpatient therapist for talk therapy could be up to four-six weeks, telehealth appointments are available. This behavioral health program is designed to meet the needs of adults, children and families experiencing a variety of problematic behaviors, thoughts and life patterns.

While reaching out for help may seem like a big step for some, perhaps the hardest task is convincing a reluctant loved one (particularly one who is an adult) that they need professional help. Sometimes listening, validating and asking questions are sufficient, but If they have harmed themselves or someone else, or they are likely to do so, they should be taken to the Emergency Department or 911 should be called.

The truth is everyone struggles sometimes. Whether mental health illnesses come from genetics, personality, life events or brain chemistry, it’s important to know that it’s ok to not be ok. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, may worsen over time and cause serious problems. Professionals at ARBH are ready to help.

Click here or or call (828) 737-7888 for more information about Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Services.

View and/or download the Depression Screening Questionnaire >

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will continue to require masks inside facilities, according to current North Carolina and CDC guidance

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will continue to require masks inside facilities, according to current North Carolina and CDC guidance

May 18, 2021

On Thursday, May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully-vaccinated people can resume most activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing, except where required by federal, state or local laws, including local business and workplace guidance. CDC guidance still requires masks in all healthcare settings to help protect yourself and those with suppressed immune systems from COVID-19.

On Friday, May 14, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper lifted all mandatory capacity requirements, distancing requirements and most mandatory masking requirements at the state level.  The state continues to recommend masks in indoor settings for people who are not fully vaccinated, and still requires masks in a healthcare setting.

To comply with CDC and state recommendations, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) will still require masking by all employees, volunteers, patients and visitors in all facilities. For the continued safety of our patients and visitors, all employees, visitors and contractors should continue to mask when in hallways, public spaces, and patient care areas.

Vaccines are readily available throughout the community. ARHS will have Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available.

Anyone is welcome to reserve an appointment at or walk into one of the following clinic times. Scheduling an appointment is preferred.

Emergency Department Staff COVID

Emergency Department Nurses practice COVID-19 precautions

AppFamily Medicine
Wednesdays 3:30pm-5:45pm
Saturdays 8:30am-10:45am
Closed May 29th for Memorial Day holiday

Baker Center for Primary Care
Saturdays 8:30am-10:45am
Closed May 29th for Memorial Day holiday

Advanced radiation therapy technique implemented at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center

Advanced radiation therapy technique implemented at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center

Photo: SBRT Machine

May 5, 2021

Watauga Medical Center announced today that Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center (the Cancer Center) has implemented Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) to treat cancerous tumors. Typically only available at larger centers, SBRT is an advanced technique that precisely targets a high dose of radiation directly to cancer cells.

When a tumor is located in the torso, the patient’s breathing causes it to move, making it difficult to precisely target with traditional radiation therapy.

Radiation oncologists at the Cancer Center use 4D imaging technology to determine the exact size, shape and location of the patient’s tumor and to map where the tumor moves throughout the breathing cycle. Using this “roadmap,” SBRT radiation is delivered to the tumor with pinpoint accuracy, while simultaneously avoiding damage to the patient’s surrounding healthy tissues.

Photo: Monitoring patient during SBRT SBRT involves the entire treatment team. A radiation therapist, physicist, and doctor are all present during sessions to monitor the patient, making sure the tumor doesn’t move outside the treatment area during breathing.

“Traditional radiation therapy is delivered daily in small doses for six to eight weeks, and can delay additional treatment therapies,” said Ken Neuvirth, Senior Director of Oncology for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. “SBRT allows us to treat patients in fewer sessions which leads to fewer side effects and better outcomes.”

Small metastatic tumors or early stage primary cancers are the best candidates for this therapy. For example, a patient in the ARHS lung cancer screening program who discovers their cancer in stage one or two might choose this treatment over surgery. For cancer patients who cannot undergo surgery, SBRT offers a safe and effective option.

Having SBRT technology in Boone means that more patients will be able to receive the cancer treatment they need closer to home. They will not have to make expensive housing arrangements in a larger city while they complete their treatment, and they can be surrounded by family, churches, or other support systems.

The Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center first received the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer® Accreditation in 1997 and reaccredited in 2019.

Learn more about Watauga Medical Center’s cancer services at

Learn more about the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center at

ARHS provides real-time  notifications for community providers through PatientPing

ARHS provides real-time notifications for community providers through PatientPing

April 30, 2021

Patient Ping Notifications PatientPing is a care collaboration software that provides real-time visibility into patient care events across the continuum. Working with hospitals, post-acutes, health plans, ACO’s and beyond, the platform connects providers across the nation to improve patient and organizational outcomes.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has partnered with PatientPing to provide real-time e-notifications upon patient admit, discharge, and transfer events at to community providers in accordance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirements  (e-notifications CoP). Community providers will be able access event notifications from ARHS in two different ways:

Notifications will be sent to PCPs and other providers identified by the patient and recorded in their patient record during a hospital encounter via Direct Messages, a national encryption standard for secure clinical data exchange. Providers will have the option to unsubscribe from receiving Direct Messages via a link in the e-notification if they wish.

Primary care entities, PACs, and other providers can also proactively request and receive notifications on their attributed patients at no cost by submitting a patient roster either directly or through a PAC EHR integration. Providers will be able to select from flexible notification delivery options to suit their workflows including web application, SMS/email push alerts, and data downloads.

To sign up for event notifications for their patients, providers may register with Patient Ping. Once you have submitted your information, a PatientPing representative will contact you directly to assist you in enabling real-time, e-notifications from ARHS.

Community providers can always access the PatientPing registration on the “Referring a Patient” web page at