Editor's note: Dolly Parton said, "This looks like a resort, not a hospital." She was misquoted in an earlier version of this story.
SEVIERVILLE - On several occasions when construction crews working on this city's new hospital had left for the night, Dolly Parton and her husband would quietly drive through the parking lot to check on its progress.
There was no sneaking around Friday afternoon as Sevier County's best-known native - complete with her own Dr. Dolly hospital badge - got her first official glimpse of LeConte Medical Center and the women's center bearing her name.
"Look at all this. This looks like a resort, not a hospital. It's beautiful. It's done first class. It makes you want to get sick," Parton said as she toured the 79-bed hospital, which opens to the public on Monday.
Parton has been a staunch supporter of the new health care facilities and her contributions can be seen throughout the new hospital, which features a couple of large photos of the country music star hanging on its walls.
Parton donated books from her Imagination Library to the hospital's pediatric emergency department waiting room while three hand-crafted rocking chairs given to Dolly from the craftsmen at Dollywood now reside in the hospital's nursery.
"I can't wait to see some babies come through here," Parton said as she joked whether any would be named Dolly.
Later, Parton made a surprise appearance to some 200 invited guests where she dedicated a prayer she wrote for the hospital.
"Dolly has been such a friend to our hospital in many ways," LeConte President and Chief Administrative Officer Ellen Wilhoit said. "She's so pleased with the facility and she's so happy that the people of Sevier County have access to this level of care."
LeConte Medical Center at 742 Middle Creek Road replaces Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center, a smaller facility that was located across the street.
The $115 million project features private patient rooms, an expanded emergency department, intensive care step-down unit and a sleep center. The 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women's Services will house services like mammography and bone density exams. The hospital's birthing unit was named after Parton in 1998.
It also includes a Sevier County branch of the Thompson Cancer Survival Center and a medical office building on the same campus.
Parton contributed a combined $500,000 toward construction of the hospital from her Dixie Stampede and the Dollywood Foundation.
She also performed a benefit concert at Smokies Park in 2007 that raised an additional $500,000.
"We're proud to be here. This is a very exciting day," Parton said.
Dolly Parton prayer presented Friday at LeConte Medical Center
Dear God,We ask your blessing upon this place today.
Bless our hands, our hearts and minds, our deeds in every way.
Let your light shine bright on us to guide us in our work.
Let your love and healing powers mend all pain and hurt.
Work through us Lord that we might better serve our fellow man
In body, mind and spirit ... in Jesus name,Amen.
Business writer Carly Harrington may be reached at 865-342-6317.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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