GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) announced plans to offer hospital services at the former home of Chestatee Regional Hospital later this year and begin developing a new replacement hospital along Georgia 400 in Lumpkin County.
“We’re thrilled to share this exciting news, which ensures people in and around Lumpkin County will have local access to the high-quality health care they need for generations to come,” says Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS. “We appreciate the patience of the community as we’ve worked to create solutions that are high-quality, sustainable, and deliver on our mission to improve the health of the community in all we do.”
“This is an answered prayer for those of us who have lived and worked in Lumpkin County for decades,” says Donna Whitfield, MD, a fifth-generation Dahlonega native and internal medicine physician with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group who has practiced in Lumpkin County for 18 years. “The roots of NGHS run deep in this area, which it’s helped care for since Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville opened in 1951, and we know there’s no other organization better suited to start a new era of healthcare in this community.”
The NGHS team has already started working to open an emergency department – along with some inpatient beds, imaging equipment and other services – in July 2019 at the existing building that was once home to Chestatee Regional Hospital. The new hospital facility will be called Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin, or NGMC Lumpkin for short. Complete emergency services will be provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at all Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) hospitals.
“Our physicians and Lumpkin County EMS already work very closely together, as the majority of emergency trauma, cardiac and stroke patients from the area have been transported to NGMC Gainesville for years,” says Mohak Davé, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine for NGMC. “Now, we look forward to providing excellent emergency care for people in Lumpkin County and surrounding communities – closer to their homes.”
While offering services at the existing hospital site will preserve the Certificate of Need authority to operate a hospital in Lumpkin County and meet the short-term needs of the community, planning has also begun for a new replacement hospital facility to sit on 57 acres NGHS already owns along Georgia 400, near the intersection with Highway 60. The new facility is tentatively scheduled to open in 2022 and expected to provide emergency services, inpatient medical/surgical care, imaging services and a focus on outpatient surgery.
“When we recently interviewed and surveyed people in the Lumpkin County area, the overwhelming majority told us three things – they need an emergency room, they want a new hospital that meets the needs of the community, and they trust and prefer Northeast Georgia Health System to care for them,” says Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “We heard them, and we intend to deliver on all three counts.”
The number of beds and operating rooms at the new replacement hospital facility will be determined during the planning process, which will also explore innovative ways to deliver care.
“As the population and needs of this area grow, creating a new healthcare destination presents an opportunity to explore new ideas and expand the way people think about hospitals,” says Dr. Whitfield. “I’m extremely interested in understanding how we can use digital technology, for things like virtual visits, and involve aspects of integrative medicine which include holistic care for the mind and spirit – not just the body.”
As the transition from the existing hospital facility to the new hospital facility is on the horizon, planning for how the existing facility will be used long-term is also in the works. NGHS currently leases the former Chestatee Regional Hospital property from The University System of Georgia Board of Regents. At some point in the future, the University of North Georgia will likely relocate some of its health sciences programs and services to the property.
“These positive changes in our local healthcare landscape create exciting opportunities to enhance the way we teach and prepare our students,” says Dr. Bonita Jacobs, president of the University of North Georgia (UNG). “We look forward to the potential to collaborate with NGHS and other local providers.”
Other local leaders are optimistic about other ways a new hospital could impact the community.
“I’ve driven and supported efforts to establish a new hospital in Lumpkin County and expand UNG’s healthcare programs on the Dahlonega campus, in large part because of the role healthcare plays in today’s economics,” says Senator Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority. “We’ve all seen the growth and prosperity a new hospital and associated development can bring, and we look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”
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