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The picture of health

POSTED: January 26, 2012 5:03 p.m.
Photo by Calli Arnold/

Patricia Parrish, right, operating room manager, and Effingham Health System Chief Operating Officer Tammy Mims, left, show off one of the nurses’ stations inside the new Effingham Hospital facility. Hospital officials held a sneak peek at the 58,000 square foot building Thursday morning and will open it to public tours Saturday morning.

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The finishing touches — what few of them are left — are being applied to the new Effingham Hospital.

Thursday, Effingham Health System officials showed off the new construction, that is on budget and ahead of schedule, in advance of Saturday’s public open house.

“This is an exciting time for Effingham Hospital,” said Rick Rafter, chairman of the hospital authority. “On Saturday, the landscape of the health care in Effingham County will change as Effingham Hospital is propelled into the 21st century. Our new facility provides one of the most modern, state-of-the-art  medical facilities that is available in the field of rural hospitals today.”

The move across the parking lot for some of the hospital offices has started. The patient financial services have taken up residence in the new building and this weekend, more moving will get under way.

“We thought it was wise to move a non-clinical office first,” said Chief Operating Officer Tammy Mims.

Next to move will be radiation services and laboratory services and some units will be operating in both the old and new sections in order to prevent a halt to necessary functions, such as blood tests.

“You’ll see the excitement in our staff,” Mims said. “They are excited to move into the new space and have new equipment.”

The respiratory care services will start their move Sunday, going from one room to a suite of rooms for each individual facet of care.

The final moves will be the operating rooms, coming over on Feb. 6, and the emergency rooms will be the last to move. Once the last patient is out of the old emergency room, all ER volume will be handled at the new building, which has a driveway dedicated solely for ambulances pulling up to the ER.

“We will actually have a dual emergency room for a short period of time,” Mims said.

There also will be no interruption in patient services as offices and units are moved from one building to another, according to Mims.

“We expect no down time of services during this transition,” she said. “We expect no patient to go without care that they need.”

On time, under budget

The $30 million modernization project — started in January 2011 — was finished two months ahead of its anticipated March 2012 completion date. General contractor J.E. Dunn also had 68 percent of its subcontractors from a 50-mile radius of the hospital.

“By the grace of God and some good guys at J.E. Dunn, we were able to get it done ahead of time,” said Mike Murphy, hospital environment of care manager and manager of the modernization project.

The new portion of the hospital is 58,000 square feet and has operating rooms that are more than the twice the size of the current ORs. Also, patients headed for surgery can be attended to and kept in secluded areas, away from the common areas of the hospital, in the new environs.

“If you build it, they will come,” said Dr. Carl Boyd, a general surgeon who will be performing operations at the hospital, “and we’ve already seen that happen.”

“Our goal is to provide the best care we can,” added Dr. Chris Mathews, hospital chief of staff. “This facility is going to help enable us to do that.”

Two of Dr. Boyd’s partners in his practice are coming to Effingham on a daily basis, he said.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Dr. Boyd added. “This will impact a countless number of Effingham County residents and their health care for the next 20 to 30 years. It does give the specialists the confidence and resources to do things here, so the patient doesn’t have to travel the long distances to the big city.”

What’s new, and what’s to come

The original facility opened in August 1969, and the new building will replace the emergency room, operating rooms and “all the other technical support services required for the vast number of procedures,” Rafter said.

As eager as hospital leaders are to open the doors to the new hospital, so too are hospital staff members. Patricia Parrish, the operating room manager, started as a ninth-grade candy striper at the original building in 1969 and returned to Effingham 15 years ago.

“It is a state of the art facility,” she said. “It is fully integrated and we’re very excited to be in the new space.”

Said chief nursing officer Marie Livingston: “It has been a remarkable journey for every employee in this facility and to see that all the sacrifices of rerouting hallways and rerouting parking spaces has come to this.”

Included in the modernization is an Alzheimer’s unit, one of the renovations to the existing nursing home. The wings in the Effingham Care Center bear the names Ebenezer, Jack’s Branch, Ogeechee and Savannah, and the Alzheimer unit wing has been named Mt. Pleasant.

The hospital’s 25 patient rooms also have been given a facelift, Murphy said, and the hospital will have the capability to expand its hospital and nursing home rooms, if it is given permission by the state. The hospital authority also has drawn up a 20-year plan for expansion of its clinical services. One of the first could be chemotherapy.

“We have looked at several components, and we are reviewing the options to see what works best for us,” Mims said.

The older section of the hospital will be renovated and will be funded in-house, Murphy said. That work will begin in six months.

“We will rehab them and modernize those spaces,” he said, “so we can have departments that are not scattered over the campus, to try to make the campus more user-friendly not just for us but for the people who are coming here to visit.”

The public open house will be held Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m., with guided tours lasting until 2 p.m. Because of limited parking, visitors are asked to park at Effingham County High School, and a shuttle will ferry visitors from ECHS to the hospital.

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