University Hospital is spending $1.2 million to buy 40 acres of land north of Thomson to build a replacement hospital for McDuffie Regional Medical Center. But officials said they have found another tenant for one of the hospital buildings downtown once the hospital moves out.
University Health Inc. voted Thursday to buy the land a half mile north of Interstate 20 on U.S. Highway 78 that also fronts the Thomson Bypass.
“We believe it is ideally located” for a new hospital, said Kyle Howell, the vice president for support and facilities services. University and McDuffie have filed paperwork with the Georgia Attorney General’s office, who must approve the sale.
A public hearing on the sale will be held in Thomson on March 29. Officials said they expect to hear some dissent from those who wanted to keep the hospital in downtown Thomson.
“There are a few naysayers but they have some proprietary interests around the old facility,” said Dr. Randy Smith, the chair of University Health.
University thinks it has already found a “future tenant” for the hospital’s newer ambulatory care building, said University CEO Jim Davis. It was built about 10 years ago, and is in much better shape than the hospital building, which was built in 1952, he said. Code changes and the need to accommodate technology meant a new hospital building, Davis said. Smith said it would be a $25 million hospital building that would be completely funded by University.
Even with some opposition, Davis said University was “95 percent sure” the deal will be approved, perhaps by May. It would then take about six months for planning and site development and then about 1½ years to build, he said. The move is necessary not only for the capital infusion but because the hospital right now is “bleeding” $200,000 a month, said University Chief Financial Officer Dave Belkoski.
University’s board also voted to spend $900,000 to buy 6 acres in Grovetown near the Gateway shopping center for a future health care delivery site.