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Georgia Regents seeks $10 million Digestive Health Center, in retrofit

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It took her five months just to get a visa and a grueling 24-hour trip from Cairo to Augusta, but Amany Mah­moud was happy to be getting tested at Georgia Regents Medical Center.

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Amany Mahmoud traveled from Egypt to Augusta to receive treatment for gastrointestinal problems at Georgia Regents Medical Center.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Amany Mahmoud traveled from Egypt to Augusta to receive treatment for gastrointestinal problems at Georgia Regents Medical Center.

“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.

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twentieth century man
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twentieth century man 02/15/13 - 11:08 am
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digestive disease excellence

Interestingly, this news was released toward the end of the week suggesting that this is actually "bad" news, which might lead one to think that the Board of Regents will not approve this expansion. The ex-MCG has a long history of gastrointestinal excellence; it would certainly bode well if such a center could be established. The cost of the ex-Dental School building renovation suggests the false economy of the attempt to expand ex-MCG via the Dental School because the abandoned dental building still needed to be renovated. Board of Regents funding approval would answer questions concerning the priority and future of the Augusta-based medical enterprise vs. the Athens-UGA expansion.

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