VALDOSTA -- South Georgia Medical Center officials recently expanded their Outpatient Center to accommodate an influx of patients.

James McGahee, chief executive officer of the medical center, announced during a meeting of the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County that 12 new outpatient procedure units have opened in the hospital's basement. The basement area was once used as office space for various medical center departments.

"Our outpatient care is a very busy service," said Ken Kiser, assistant administrator for Patient Care Services. "This addition has really helped."

The $75,676 renovation was completed by Bovis Lend Lease in Atlanta.

South Georgia Medical Center's Outpatient Center treats roughly 40 patients a day, an average of 700 each month. While many of them are from the local area, Kiser said patients come from all of the surrounding counties for outpatient procedures.

"We have a very strong referral base," he added.

Sherry Felkel, RN, nurse manager for Outpatient Services, said approximately 60-70 percent of all surgical procedures performed at the medical center are done on an outpatient basis. And Georgianne Bauer, RN, Outpatient Services supervisor, expects that number to rise in the near future.

"More surgeries are going to be done on an outpatient basis in the future," Bauer said.

The reason for this, Kiser said, revolves around advances in the medical field, including new technology, different surgical techniques, new procedures, and shorter-acting anesthesia.

Felkel, Bauer, and Kiser all agree that patients are loving the service for a number of reasons -- it's more convenient, it's less expensive, and it gets them back to the comfort of their own home in a matter of hours. In fact, Kiser said the rising demand for outpatient services led to the 12-bed addition.

South Georgia Medical Center's Outpatient Center opened in 1995 complete with a 24-bed outpatient-nursing unit, satellite lab, X-ray room, and anesthesia consult area.

Same-day surgeries are available to treat medical conditions ranging from cataracts to hernia repairs to tubal ligations to gall stones. A variety of diagnostic services area also available through the Outpatient Center, including biopsies.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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