After seeing thousands of burn patients over the years, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital needed some major surgery of its own. The problem was finding time to slow down long enough, said Medical Director Fred Mullins.
"We've been so busy we just couldn't renovate," he said. "We couldn't keep up. So this is long overdue."
The burn center will show off the $9 million renovation of its 20-bed intensive care unit after a ribbon-cutting and grand reopening today. The hospital is also planning to renovate a 16-bed pediatric burn ICU, and with 34 step-down beds it will increase the overall capacity from 59 to 70 beds.
The rooms in the ICU, now all private, were designed "keeping in mind that our goal is to maintain or actually provide the things that skin does," said Tanya Simpson, the assistant vice president of burn services.
For instance, skin helps the body regulate and maintain temperature, so all of the rooms are designed to heat up to 95 degrees if needed, she said. The operating rooms often are kept at a similar temperature, so having them made a little larger helps, Mullins said.
"It just makes it a little easier," he said.
The renovations include little advantages, such as having a handheld shower head in the room where initial assessments are made to clear off any soot or debris burn patients frequently bring in with them, Simpson said. Previously, the staff had to get it off with a washcloth and a basin, she said.
In addition to the "home base" in Augusta, the center's physicians, who have their own company, help operate a 15-bed burn unit in Jackson, Miss., and outpatient clinics in Atlanta, Charleston, and soon in Valdosta, Ga., Mullins said.
"The reason we've done it is because we have a high volume of patients that come from south Georgia; they come up from the Lowcountry of South Carolina; they come from north Georgia," he said. "This makes it more convenient for them to do their follow-up. It's easier for one physician to travel down to Valdosta than for 30 or 40 patients to come up this way."
The center, which averages about 2,600 patients a year, still draws major burns from Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, the Florida panhandle and even Kentucky and North Carolina.
"We continued our outreach all over the Southeast," Simpson said. "We continue to see more and more patients, sicker patients."