MATTHEWS – The 25th-anniversary celebration of Novant Health Matthews Medical Center on Aug. 24 doubled as a birthday party of sorts for Sam Woods, the first baby born in the hospital.
Sam was born at 2 a.m. Aug. 25, 1994. Former Mayor Lee Myers remembers visiting the hospital, then known as Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, later that day to congratulate the parents.
“Here wrapped in this blanket was this little gift to the town of Matthews and it was Sam,” Myers said.
Dr. Victor Harouny delivered Sam that morning. Sam’s father was the director of the Christian life center at Harouny’s church.
“There was a lot of excitement at 2 a.m. that day,” Harouny recalled. “The dedicated, hardworking, faithful nurses who were up in the maternity center set a tone of warmth and professionalism that continues today.”
Just as Woods has grown and matured, Harouny said, so has the hospital.
“It continues to be a caring and professional atmosphere in this hospital,” Harouny continued. “A place that has become so integrated with this growing city that Matthews without this hospital can hardly be imagined.”
Dr. Chris Reynolds, the hospital’s chief of staff, said Novant Health Matthews Medical Center has kept pace with the town’s growth by expanding its services over the years.
The hospital has added a fifth floor, expanded ICU capacity and critical care services, as well as launched a cardiac catheterization lab and upgraded women’s center. Such expansions have allowed the hospital to deliver 2,000 babies in its maternity center and treat 50,000 patients through its emergency department annually, Reynolds said.
Novant Health executive Harry Smith noted how Matthews Medical Center was the system’s first five-star hospital. It’s also earned an A safety grade from LeapFrog.
“Matthews Medical Center would not be what it is without the community’s support,” Smith said.
During the celebration, the hospital gave a token of appreciation to its longest-serving volunteer, 91-year-old Iris Jordan.
She said volunteering over the past 25 years has given her much joy and happiness, especially working with wonderful, caring people who really want to help everyone.
Novant Health executive Paula Vincent remembers coming out to the site of the hospital and being up to her knees in North Carolina red clay. She recognized Myers and other town leaders being very supportive of the project.
“Memories of hiring the first staff and opening this hospital are like none other,” she said. “The bond between the team at this hospital is like none other. The first leadership team that we were able to open the doors is like my family and I will cherish that forever, but the bond between the community, the Matthews community, is like a special memory.”
The relationship between the town and hospital continues to this day. Novant Health and the hospital contribute to community events, such as Matthews Alive, as well as host events like the Festival of Trees.
It also partners with community organizations, such as the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, Blessed Assurance Adult Day Care, C.O.S.Kids and Matthews Free Medical Center.
Myers described Novant Health Matthews Medical Center as “the best community hospital anywhere in the world.” He said its journey actually began 30 years ago with a vision among town and hospital leaders.
Myers arrived at the celebration with the very shovel he forged into red clay when town and hospital leaders broke ground on the site in December 1992. Though it’s one of the fanciest shovels he’s received in his 18 years as mayor, he gave it back to the hospital for display.
Roland Bibeau, president of Novant Health Matthews Medical Center, suggested the shovel could be displayed with a time capsule the 157-bed hospital plans to open in 25 years.
“If you’re around another 25 years, I would even suggest another five years, you’re going to see us getting close, if not over, 200 beds,” Bibeau said. “We’re going to enhance a new bed tower because we average 10 to 12 patients that wait a day for an in-patient bed. I want to be clear, that’s too many.”
Bibeau also vowed to continue to improve the health of the community one person at a time. He wants to preserve community relationships and continue to improve the quality of care and human experience.
Commissioner Barbara Dement presented the hospital a proclamation declaring Aug. 24, 2019 as Novant Health Matthews Medical Center 25th Anniversary Day in Matthews.
Dement described Matthews Medical Center as a community hospital that has encouraged and healed us when we have been hurt, afraid or in mourning, as well as shared tears of joy as we celebrate the birth of each child.
Returning to the hospital where he was born 25 years prior, Sam Woods joked that the place hadn’t changed a bit.
“Honestly, I didn’t really do much, but I really do appreciate you having me up here,” the aspiring Nashville musician told those gathered at the celebration. “The least I could do is play a little guitar.”