VALDOSTA -- South Georgia Medical Center is preparing itself in the event of a disaster in the region.

Janna Guess, the environment of care coordinator for SGMC, gave a presentation Wednesday at a meeting of the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County to discuss the steps the medical center is taking to ensure it's prepared for any natural or manmade disaster.

Although Valdosta is considered relatively safe from outside terrorist threats, meetings such as the G-8 Summit of world leaders in Sea Island this spring would impact SGMC as they are a contingency hospital in the event of a threat or attack.

Guess said threats come in other forms as well. "There are meth (methamphetamine) labs here. The chemicals are toxic. They even have them now on mobile homes that are traveling on I-75. Even the smallest wreck could be a disaster."

SGMC has ordered decontamination showers, self-contained breathing apparatus, and portable generators to further prepare the hospital for emergencies.

In other business, the Authority:

Voted to approve $716,000 as budgeted for upgrades and new equipment;

Voted to contribute $100,000 to the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, a regional initiative that is part of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. SGMC Chief Executive Officer James McGahee said the contribution was important and would ultimately benefit the hospital;

Voted to contribute $25,000 to the Partnership for Metropolitan Development for the city's image campaign;

Voted to approve a finance committee report stating that the medical center is "tracking close to budget on the operating margin" for the first five months of the fiscal year, according to Chief Financial Officer Greg Hembree;

Discussed the joint Authority/City of Valdosta/Lowndes County annual meeting, which will be held at 7:30 a.m. March 31. Topics to be addressed at the meeting include the proposed improvements to the emergency department at the hospital;

Set a meeting for the ad hoc committee in charge of eliminating issues in the emergency room in terms of on-call physicians' schedules for March 26. The committee will hear a presentation by a consultant hired to conduct a feasibility study of a proposed hospitalist program, under which physicians would be hired directly by the hospital to work in the ER and admit patients;

Proposed a slate of nominees for the county appointed position which expires June 1, 2004. Calvin Emanuel is currently serving, but indicated that he is not interested in another term. The slate includes Frank Morman, Dr. Mary Margaret Richardson and David Troy;

The slate of nominees for the city appointed position, also expiring, includes current board member Ralph Council, Laverne Gaskins, and Leroy Butler;

McGahee announced that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations will be conducting its review of SGMC June 7 to 11;

Established an ad hoc committee to discuss a scholarship program to assist with future recruitment efforts.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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