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The Daily Tar Heel

Celebration Marks Hospitals' Opening

Hospital employees, University officials, politicians and state residents gathered in front of the new N.C. Children's and Women's hospitals on Saturday to witness the facilities' dedication.

"This is a historic day for UNC Hospitals and for the women and children of North Carolina," said Eric Munson, president and CEO of UNC Hospitals.

And while much of the dedication had a jovial mood, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., the keynote speaker, brought up the serious issue of shortfalls in the nation's health care system.

"Too often American health care is held back by bureaucracy, gridlock and political indifference," he said.

Edwards said the new hospitals represent a medical model the nation should strive to imitate. "Here in Chapel Hill, you've built a monument to an ideal -- that the best medicine belongs not in some distant laboratory or far-off academy but in the lives of all our people," he said.

Edwards went on to outline his congressional work on the Patient's Bill of Rights, a bipartisan effort that he said is not supported by President Bush.

Instead, Edwards said Bush is supporting another bill that is popular with health maintenance organizations. "It promises rights but doesn't give patients a real remedy to enforce those rights," he said. "This is not a bill of rights -- it's a bill of wrongs."

Edwards also said he supported affordable prescription drugs for seniors, expanding health care for uninsured children and funding for undirected research.

Other speakers at the ceremony included UNC-system President Molly Broad, UNC-Chapel Hill Provost Robert Shelton and Dean of the UNC-CH Medical School Jeffrey Houpt.

Houpt pledged to provide the best medical care possible to the state -- a goal Shelton said fell in line with the University's overall mission. "Today's event epitomizes Chapel Hill's ability to bring world-class people and world-class science to North Carolina," Shelton said.

The dedication culminated with the sewing together of two quilts made by women and children from across the state, symbolizing the joining of eastern and western North Carolina.

After the official dedication, spectators toured the new facilities and watched performances by local groups.

Miriam Lynch, a retired night supervisor at UNC Hospitals, said she was impressed with the effort that went into the new hospitals. "I think they've really tried to make it as modern as possible," Lynch said. "And it really seems like the patient is at the heart of what they do."

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