“Times have changed, haven’t they?” he said during the Saturday ceremony celebrating the April 1 opening of the new, $92 million WellStar Paulding Hospital in Hiram.
The ceremony was part of a daylong event Saturday on the hospital grounds that began with a 5K race and included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, family game area with inflatables and a climbing wall, a country music concert and a fireworks show.
Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ provided 7,000 plates of food free to attendees.
Speakers during the ceremony leading up to the ribbon cutting included Wills, chairman of the Paulding County Hospital Authority; WellStar Paulding President Mark Haney; Janie Maddox, chairwoman of the WellStar Health Systems board of trustees; Reynold Jennings, president and chief executive officer of WellStar Health Systems; and District 14 U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Calhoun.
Wills recalled when he returned to the county from service in the Navy in 1953, the community began pushing for construction of a hospital in the then-isolated county northwest of Atlanta. Wills’ father, John Loran “Bully” Wills, was the treasurer of the first Paulding hospital authority board which raised funds for three years to build Paulding Memorial Hospital. It joined the group of hospitals that became WellStar in 1994.
The new hospital, which replaces the, 16-year-old facility on West Memorial Drive in Dallas, includes 295,000 square feet in eight floors and 56 licensed beds, with the ability to expand to 112 beds.
It also will include 40 adult and pediatric emergency exam rooms, four surgical suites and all-private patient rooms.
Haney said the new facility at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Bill Carruth Parkway includes such state-of-the-art features as a geothermal heating and cooling system using water pumped through 32 miles of pipes and an air handling system using ultraviolet light to kill viruses.
“We’ve created an environment that does well in infection control,” he said.
Wills, who chairs the authority and has been a member for 36 years, said his father would be proud of what leaders who came after him produced for Paulding.
“This building will take care of our health needs for a long time,” he said.
Maddox told the crowd WellStar expanded its hospital offerings in Paulding because “you, as a community, demanded it.”
“We dreamed big in this community,” she said. “Look what we got.”