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New University McDuffie hospital built for growth

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 6:05 PM
Last updated Thursday, April 18, 2013 2:20 AM
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THOMSON — Before dirt had even been turned for the new building for University Hospital McDuffie, Jim Davis was already talking about expansion.

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Sandra McVicker (second from left), the CEO of the new University Hospital McDuffie, prepares for the ceremonial dig during the groundbreaking ceremony.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Sandra McVicker (second from left), the CEO of the new University Hospital McDuffie, prepares for the ceremonial dig during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Standing on the 40-acre site where officials broke ground Wednesday for a $30 million hospital to replace an aging downtown building, the CEO of University Health Care System said it would be a 25-bed facility with the capacity to go up to 100 beds.

Looking at Thomson Mayor Ken Usry in the first row of the tent at the ceremony, Davis said, “Mayor Usry, if you can grow this place, we’ll grow with you.”

“That’s our intent,” Usry replied.

The numbers are in their favor. Moving the hospital from downtown Thomson five miles, to just north of Interstate 20 at the intersection of Georgia 17 and the Thomson Bypass, opens it up to a greater number of people and towns within 20 minutes away.

“When you build a building like this you look at a 20-minute drive time (as the draw),” Davis said. “Obviously you can go a long ways on I-20 in 20 minutes.”

That would also bring in some of the fastest-growing census tracts in the Augusta area. Grovetown, for instance, increased its population 82 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to data analysis by The Augusta Chronicle. The population in Evans jumped 50 percent in that time period, the analysis found.

“We’re certainly going to hope that we get some of that western Columbia County growth coming this direction” to the hospital, Davis said. “But there are communities to the north and to the east of here that would still find this to be very close.”

Thomson itself has been growing that direction for the past 25-30 years, Usry said. The interchange where the hospital will go was aided by water and sewage provided by the city, he said.

Preserving a hospital in McDuffie was looking impossible when the facility was rapidly losing money and the future looked grim, said William Doupé, then chairman of the Hospital Authority of McDuffie County and a board member of University Hospital McDuffie.

“It is extremely important that we keep a high-quality medical facility close to our care,” he said. “I firmly believed, as did the other members on the board, that keeping a hospital in McDuffie County would save lives. For us it became a public safety priority.”

And it will be important for the future health of the county, which in the 2013 County Health Rankings ranked 156 out of 159 counties in Georgia. The biggest problems in McDuffie County are diabetes and high blood pressure and the hospital can make a difference with those patients, said Sandra McVicker, CEO of University Hospital McDuffie.

“That’s what all of this is about is a new hospital and new beginnings so that we can definitely improve the health care of our county and our surrounding counties as well,” she said. “I think you’re going to see that score going up in the next five years.”

Where the new entirely University-funded hospital will sit, on a hill overlooking the intersection and close to I-20, will also provide it with much greater visibility, said Kyle Howell, vice president of support and facilities services at University Hospital.

“You can see it coming from all directions,” he said. “It’s a great site.”

Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this report.

FAMILY Y TO GET OLD BUILDING

Construction on the $30 million building for University Hospital McDuffie is expected to take 14-15 months and be completed by September or October 2014, said Kyle Howell, the vice president of support and facilities for University Hospital.

After the old building is vacated, it will be donated to the Family Y to be used as a health and fitness facility, University CEO Jim Davis said. The oldest part of the building, which opened in 1952, will probably be demolished, he said.

– From staff reports

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WalterBradfordCannon
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WalterBradfordCannon 04/18/13 - 12:34 pm
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The interesting part is that

The interesting part is that the hospital will be entirely funded by University. Which is entirely owned by Richmond County. Which means taxpayer resources are being used to construct a public hospital in McDuffie county that will be owned by Richmond County. The usual suspects would whine about misuse of public resources and public resources being used to compete with private resources, but they probably are not familiar with the ownership and history of University Hospital.

Tom Corwin
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Tom Corwin 04/18/13 - 12:48 pm
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Walter

University Hospital technically is owned by the Richmond County Hospital Authority but it is leased to a non-profit corporation that actually runs the hospital and its other services. University Hospital has not received funding from Augusta-Richmond County for many years so the taxpayers of Richmond County are not funding the construction of the new hospital.

WalterBradfordCannon
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WalterBradfordCannon 04/18/13 - 05:27 pm
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Its assets are Richmond

Its assets are Richmond County's assets. If it runs a profit, the money can be returned to Richmond County taxpayers. After all, it is their money. The money does not somehow get abstracted to belong to the nonprofit that runs the hospital because it has not taken money from Richmond County for many years, any more than my land would no longer belong to me if I rented it to someone for a while.

Basically, the public image of University Hospital is continuously presented as though it is not part of the government, whereas in fact it was created by the government, and is owned by the government. Its expansion is expansion of the government. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, but the local politicians continuously argue that smaller government is better, and that anything the government can do, the private enterprise can do better. University is rapidly gobbling up smaller enterprises in the area (converting them from private to public), and is now building new hospitals. It is worth commenting on. And recently, both University and Doctor's attempted to set up new emergency centers in Columbia County, and the difference between the public and private hospitals was not even considered.

Or, put another way, think of what Richmond County could do with the money if it sold University! The sale would generate billions of dollars that could directly serve the taxpayers without compromising local healthcare. After all, if it were sold to a private corporation (like HCA), it would probably function better!

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