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VIDEO: NE Georgia Health System Ready for Construction of New Tower at Gainesville Hospital

Thu April 07, 2022 - Southeast Edition
Northeast Georgia Health System

People living in and around Gainesville, Ga., are one step closer to having improved access to more lifesaving and life-changing care, as Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is preparing to start construction on a new, multi-story tower at its medical facility in the city.

The new, 927,000-sq.-ft. structure will be built next to the existing North Patient Tower on the Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Gainesville campus, making the hospital the third largest in the state by bed size.

State, local and hospital officials were on hand for the tower's groundbreaking in March. It is anticipated to open in early 2025.

"This new tower is designed with the greater good in mind," Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS, explained in a statement posted on the hospital's website.

"Our community is at the heart of every decision we've made along the way and has kept us moving forward, especially during the past two years. As you can imagine, COVID drastically changed the way we think about delivering care to our patients and has allowed us to apply lessons we have learned to the new tower design."

To illustrate her point, she noted that during the pandemic, NGHS' Plant Operations team and contractors manually converted regular patient rooms into negative-pressure rooms, a creative solution to help prevent airborne viruses from spreading, and one that likely saved lives. Unfortunately, though, the rigged ventilation systems often made the rooms loud, hot and uncomfortable. But that experience led the tower's architects to design its patient rooms in a manner where they can more easily be converted to negative pressure when needed.

"As proud advocates for high quality health care in the communities we serve, we are excited about how this tower will provide improved access and advanced treatments," said state Rep. Lee Hawkins, dean of Hall County's local delegation in the Georgia General Assembly. "Our region is blessed to have a thriving, independent health system like NGHS that is governed by volunteer board leaders who live and work in his community, which is increasingly rare in our state and nation."

New Tower Designed to Include Many Upgrades

NGHS noted in its announcement that the new tower will pave the way for several expected improvements, including:

  • Moving the hospital's existing Emergency Department (ED) to the ground floor of the new tower and expanding the department to care for more people quickly and efficiently.
  • Bringing together heart and vascular services provided by the Georgia Heart Institute, including diagnostic testing, cardiac catheterization and open-heart surgery so heart patients and families will experience more seamless care.
  • Constructing a new helipad on the tower's roof to increase the speed and efficiency needed to support life-saving trauma, heart, stroke and surgical care.
  • Expanding access to the Gainesville facility's comprehensive stroke center, cranial surgery and all levels of inpatient care for neurology patients.
  • Adding more operating rooms to expand available surgeries and procedures as well as providing more than 150 new beds for inpatient care.
  • Building a parking deck with hundreds of new parking spaces for patients and visitors.
  • Creating an opportunity for future renovation of the South Tower.
  • Extending the existing Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden and creating additional greenspaces to provide outdoor areas for gathering and reflecting.

Deepak Aggarwal, NGHS' chief of medical staff, said on the health system's website, "The project team spent a lot of time talking to physicians, nurses and other clinical staff to design a place that would streamline care for our patients. The added beds will help meet the demand of our growing population and having more operating and procedure rooms to serve their needs is vital as well."

As Gainesville-Hall County's top employer and a good steward of resources, NGHS said it is committed to using local labor from the region and state as much as possible — with as many as 2,000 workers on-site at any time to make the tower a reality.

"Over the next two years, it will be virtually impossible to miss this tower coming out of the ground," said Spence Price, NGHS board chair. "This campus is going to be transformed, and the economic and health impacts will be significant for our region."

Larger ED Space Will Have Many Benefits

The ED at the Gainesville hospital is consistently one of the five busiest in Georgia, according to NGHS. Moving it to the reimagined space in the new tower should lead to shorter wait times for patients and an improved working environment for physicians and staff.

"We have needed new space for a while, and I'm grateful that we are one step closer to that reality," said Mohak Dave՛, chief of emergency medicine of the health system. "We have been able to design the space around new workflows borne out of the pandemic and other experiences to make an emergency visit more efficient for patients, physicians and staff."

Through the work of the NGHS Foundation, the new ED also will include space dedicated to treating pediatric patients. When building is complete, that section of the department will be named in honor of Buddy Langston, a longtime pediatrician in the Gainesville community.

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of the residents in that part of the state, caring for more than one million people across the region through four hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations.

In addition to its Gainesville medical facility, Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has campuses in Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega, with a total of more than 700 beds, and 1,100 medical staff members trained in more than 60 specialties.

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