Valdosta Daily Times

August 26, 2013

Hospital cuts ribbon on major expansion

Terry Richards
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — South Georgia Medical Center took a big step forward Sunday as a new five-story patient tower, home to the hospital’s heart center, was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours for visitors.

The Dasher Memorial Heart Center and Patient Tower represents the first addition of patient rooms to SGMC in 25 years, said Bill Forbes, the hospital’s chief planning officer. Four of the floors hold 24 patient rooms each. Construction of the tower began in November 2011 at a cost of $64 million.

“When you see it, you’ll think you’re in a nice hotel,” said Bill Cowart, chairman of the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County.

The tower is located on the hospital’s south side near the emergency room and the hospital’s heliport. The target for having all of the equipment installed and final details taken care of is the week of Sept. 3, said Randy Sauls, chief executive officer of SGMC.

A large crowd of hospital personnel, former heart center patients and interested onlookers crowded the lobby area of the tower for the ribbon cutting. As soon as the ceremonies were finished, the tours began.

Aside from the lobby, the first floor of the tower is largely given over to prep and recovery facilities, as well as cath labs where heart catheterization procedures are carried out and operating rooms.

Zachary Silas, an engineer with Toshiba, showed visitors the new digital X-ray system in one of the cath labs. He said three of the machines — two floor-mounted and one ceiling-mounted — have been installed.

Patient rooms begin on the second floor. The patient room layouts are the same for all floors, and the tower is connected to the rest of the hospital by long interior “bridges” on the third, fourth and fifth floors, said Laura Love, community relations director for the hospital.

New beds being put in the rooms are of the latest model, with built-in diagnostic functions, music channels and the ability to ask medical questions of the patient in 30 languages, said Ole Juve, sales representative with the beds’ manufacturer, Stryker.

He demonstrated the bed’s bedside manner, having it ask a nonexistent patient health questions in Farsi.

Every room has windows with an exterior view, said Love.

Computer screens can be seen everywhere in the new tower, including ceiling-mounted displays in the patient rooms. Dedicated “comm/data rooms” are on every floor, speaking to the importance of digital technology in modern medicine. All of the rooms have high-tech monitoring systems, Love said.

One of the rooms on display Sunday had a large sling device hanging from the ceiling. This gear, called a “patient flip,” is designed to let nurses more easily turn over or maneuver large or heavy patients, said Peter Moore, a mobility specialist with the sling’s manufacturer, Hill-Rom. He said SGMC has 12 patient flips.

“Nurse perches” could be seen in the corridors, desks with computers stationed between the glass hallway windows of two patient rooms. Love said this arrangement makes it easier for nurses to observe patients and makes it unnecessary to wheel around portable computers on carts.

On the fifth floor — the ortho-neuro floor — Dr. Hitham Khalil, a neurosurgeon, answered questions and showed the workings of a computerized probe device used in surgery.

“This is like a GPS system for locating things,” Khalil said while using the probe on a simulated portion of the human body.

Now that the tower is up and running, operations will be moved one floor at a time from the appropriate areas of the main hospital to the tower, CEO Randy Sauls said. Those areas of the original hospital facility which the tower is taking over for will eventually be renovated as part of a “backfill plan” and will still be used for patient care, Love said.