BOONE — The Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center is currently in the process of being re-imagined to serve the community, which includes removing the lap pool.
Rob Hudspeth, senior vice president for system advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, said for the past three years, the health care system has been in the process of revitalizing all of its facilities and services to prepare for growth in the coming decades, which included the Wellness Center.
“Since the county announced that they were going forward with the recreation center, we’ve been contemplating what that means for the future of the Wellness Center, especially being that they’re a block apart,” Hudspeth said.
One of the biggest changes coming to the center is the removal of the lap pool.
“This decision was based on utilization of our pool and the availability of the pool at the new recreation center,” Hudspeth said. “We have not made a determination regarding the therapy pool and are still evaluating how and where to continue those services.”
If the Watauga Community Recreation Center did not have a pool, Hudspeth said the lap pool at the Wellness Center would most likely stay open.
Mary Stolberg, a member of the Wellness Center, is disappointed that the lap pool will be closing. She said that as a cancer survivor and someone who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, she would rather swim in a cleaner pool rather than one that’s frequented by children and many other people.
“I think it’s just a mistake for people who are immunocompromised and older to be exposed to that and I think it’s a real disservice,” Stolberg said. “It just is not wise to put us into a pool where we are with unvaccinated people and germ carriers.”
She also said the Wellness Center offers more privacy for someone like her who is older, verses locker rooms at the Watauga Community Recreation Center.
Stolberg, who has been a lifelong swimmer, had constantly used the lap pool before COVID-19 pandemic, but has not during the pandemic due to health concerns. She said she plans to use it as she can while it’s still available.
During her 31 years in the county, Stolberg said she has had very good experiences with the hospital, but she is upset the lap pool is being removed.
The re-imagining of the center, Hudspeth said, is directly related to growth in three key areas. The first is AppOrtho, which has grown 213 percent in the past five years.
“As AppOrtho seeks to grow to meet the community’s demand — and develop a comprehensive sports medicine and performance lab — relocating to the Wellness Center made the most sense,” Hudspeth said. “Having AppOrtho located beside The Rehabilitation Center, where orthopedic providers and physical therapists can work in concert, will allow for care continuity under one roof.”
Hudspeth said that currently, people would go to the AppOrtho office for their medical appointment and then go to the Wellness Center for their physical therapy. With the Wellness Center changes, patients will have it all in one building.
The sports medicine and performance lab would be able to help athletes who are dealing with an injury, such as tendinitis in an elbow of a softball pitcher. The player could go to the lab and staff would monitor the throwing motion and assess the mechanics to determine what’s causing the injury.
While AppOrtho has grown immensely, so has The Rehabilitation Center — with physical and occupational therapy services — located within the Wellness Center. Hudspeth said the rehabilitation portion has grown 162 percent since 2018 with therapists providing therapy in “tight, confined spaces.”
The new plan, Hudspeth said, allows for the physical and occupational therapy to have more space and grow with demand. Along with that comes change in how clinical wellness and medical fitness programs are delivered.
“As we continue to shift toward prioritizing population health management we will adopt processes which align patients with targeted medical wellness programs,” Hudspeth said. “These programs will be directed by medical providers and carried out by therapists and personal trainers in a newly renovated space within the Wellness Center. We will continue to offer memberships for people who seek to ensure their personal physical fitness beyond their medical fitness program.”
Hudspeth said the new architectural designs will be finalized in the next few weeks and, once they are complete, will be posted in the Wellness Center.