“Everything they have in this medical center here is so good,” said Mahmoud, 24, who is being tested for gastrointestinal issues and was referred to Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, the hospital’s chief of gastroenterology/hepatology.
Rao says future patients will arrive to find something much better and more comprehensive.
The health system is pursuing plans for a $10 million Digestive Health Center on the mostly vacant second floor of the old College of Dental Medicine building nearby.
The system has secured a certificate of need from the state but must get approval from the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.
The center would be part of a $50 million retrofit to the more than 40-year-old building, which would house administrative functions on both the clinical and university sides, said Phil Howard, the vice president for facilities service.
“It’s a needed building,” he said, and the plans keep with the mindset of reusing buildings rather than tearing down and rebuilding. “We believe at the end of day, once we do all of the infrastructure upgrades, we’ll have a heck of a building there.”
Having all of the digestive services together will allow the center to provide more comprehensive and coordinated care, said Rao, also the director of the Digestive Health Center.
“The model that we are moving towards is a multidisciplinary and comprehensive care model where physicians and surgeons will sit and work together with a common goal of helping our patient, and not just saying, ‘Oh, maybe this is a medical problem, this is a surgical problem,’ ” he said.
It will make it easier on patients hunting where they need to go, Rao said.
“One of the concerns of our patients is they get lost in this institution,” he said. “What we anticipate will happen is the patient will come to our center and will get everything under one roof at one physical location.”
The center would be able to expand offerings and help foster some specialties, such as Rao in neurogastroenterology and motility, and it recently recruited faculty members with expertise in advanced endoscopy and therapeutics.
The center will also focus on expertise in inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and gastrointestinal oncology, Rao said. He anticipates hiring 15 to 20 more people in the center in the form of faculty members, dietitians, nurses and support staffers.
In the past, patients might have sought treatment elsewhere because Augusta lacked the expertise.
Now, “they really don’t have to go anywhere,” Rao said. “We can provide them with the best care that they are going to get anywhere.”
Mahmoud can attest to that. She had sought treatment in Egypt and Jordan for constant vomiting, but her doctor finally referred her to Georgia Regents because of its expertise, she said.
“I feel better here,” she said.