After nearly a decade of striving, Peach County officials expect to break ground on a new hospital in March.
Tom Green, chairman of the Peach County Hospital Authority, said a groundbreaking ceremony for the $28 million building is set for March 29. Construction is expected to begin in May, with completion in the summer of 2013.
Talks for a new hospital began in 2003, but the process was slowed by controversy over the location and the economic downturn. It finally came together through a partnership with The Medical Center of Central Georgia and its umbrella organization, Central Georgia Health System.
“It’s hard to believe this day is coming,” Green said.
He said the Medical Center will operate the 25-bed hospital through a lease agreement, which will allow the Medical Center to treat Peach County patients closer to home. The current Peach hospital serves an average of five patients per day, and with the new hospital and the Medical Center partnership, it will mean more patients and more jobs at the facility, Green said.
Exactly what will happen to the current building in Fort Valley is uncertain. Green said the hospital authority wants to keep some kind of treatment facility in Fort Valley. Fort Valley State University has expressed interest in the building as a nurse training facility, and some have suggested it as a hospice facility, Green said.
The new hospital will be located on the Ga. 247 Connector near John Sullivan Road. At 63,361 square feet, it will be 15,000 square feet larger than the current one.
More importantly, Green said, is that it will keep an emergency room in Peach County.
“The average person doesn’t care where he gets his knee replaced, but he does want to have an emergency room close by,” he said. “You can’t have an emergency room without a hospital.
The lease agreement is essentially already in effect for the operation of the current hospital, said Elbert McQueen, vice president of Central Georgia Health System. The agreement is awaiting state approval to make it official.
He said the partnership benefits the Medical Center in part because it essentially gives 25 new beds.
The Medical Center has had to turn patients away for a lack of beds at times, he said.
“It is going to mean a lot of things, but first and foremost it is going to keep health care for the residents of Peach County in their area,” he said.
The financing is being done through a bond issue of up to $30 million approved by the Bibb County Commission. The resolution stated the board is approving it for legal purposes, and it does not put the county under any liability for the funds. McQueen said because of the Medical Center’s solid financial condition, it was able to get the financing at a lower rate than Peach County would have gotten on its own. Therefore, he said, some of the construction costs can be shifted from financing to buying more updated equipment for the facility.
Nancy Peed, chief executive officer of Peach Regional, will be in charge of the new facility, and the rest of the current staff also will remain in place, McQueen said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.