The ceremonial shovels turned over a little bit of dirt Thursday morning but within a couple of months, Effingham Hospital officials hope even more earth can be moved for its new imaging center.
With its certificate of need application approved, hospital officials broke ground for the state of the art imaging center, which will go next to their primary care center at the corner of Highway 21 and Goshen Road in Rincon.
“We are doing our very best to improve health care in this county,” said hospital Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Mobley. “And there’s a lot more to come.”
“For so long, Effingham County residents have had to go into Savannah for specialty care,” Effingham Hospital Administrator Norma Jean Morgan said. “Now that the population is here, we can recruit physicians and more specialty care physicians. The opportunity is here for this center to sustain itself.”
Not all the mountains to be moved were done with shovels, either. Effingham Hospital had to fight past opposition to its certificate of need application from Memorial Health University Medical Center.
The final plans for the imaging center are expected to be completed soon and the process to select a contractor will take another month. Until the CON was approved, the hospital could not pick a contractor. Building the facility and getting the equipment in will take about 12 months, with a projected opening of July 2008.
“I wish it would be sooner, but it’s going to take about a year,” hospital authority member Murray Kight said.
Hospital Administrator Norma Jean Morgan said one of the hospital authority members first broached the idea of an imaging center in Rincon.
“He knew what we needed, and we already had the property in place,” she said.
The imaging center will be more than 8,700 square feet and will have a business/reception area, waiting room, a women’s center with four exam rooms and a radiologist reading area. The imaging equipment will include a CT scanner, digital mammography, ultrasound, digital bone density testing, radiography and fluoroscopy. The projected price tag for the building and its array of machines is $4.8 million.
The women’s center that will be a part of the imaging center will allow for privacy as mammographies, ultrasounds and bone density exams are conducted, according to Dr. Robert Long of Radiology Associates. Currently, the closest mammography exams are conducted is in Savannah.
“This brings us to the 21st century in medicine,” he said. “You can pull up in front of the building and go in and get it done.”
There won’t be any printouts for patients to look over, either.
“It will all be digital,” Long said. “They can put it on a CD and take it home.”
Long also helped with the design of the building and with the certificate of need. The hospital’s CON application needed aid, since Memorial Health University Medical Center opposed it, according to Morgan. They had no such obstacle from St. Joseph’s/Candler.
Morgan offered her gratitude for the work of the Effingham County legislative delegation, state Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) and state Reps. Jon Burns (R-Newington) and Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) and “for their influence to make sure Effingham County was given an opportunity to serve people at home.”
Candler/St. Joseph’s offered tacit support of the hospital’s CON application of the imaging center, knowing that it could offer services beyond those that will be available once the Rincon center opens.
“Paul Hinchey was very interested in seeing we could improve health care in Effingham County,” Morgan said of the St. Joe’s/Candler chief executive officer.
Memorial filed an appeal on Effingham’s CON and those appeals can go all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“But the Department of Community Health thought (the imaging center) was viable,” Morgan said.
Memorial’s opposition held up the DCH’s approval of the certificate of need.
“Because of that, it took a little while longer than we would have liked for it,” Morgan said.
Carter praised Morgan and her determination and also the work of Sen. Hill behind the scenes in getting the CON pushed through. Morgan lauded hospital Chief Financial Officer Ed Brown’s labor on the CON and showing the DCH there was a need and the center could be financially viable.