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At 4 years old, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton growing up and reaching out
Hospital staff make their way down a hallway at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton on Friday, March 1, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Road projects and new construction are not the only signs of growth in South Hall — Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton has been expanding, too.

The hospital opened in April 2015, off of Friendship Road in a quickly growing area of South Hall near Jackson, Barrow and Gwinnett counties.

Its reach has extended in to neighboring counties, too. The top four ZIP codes for patients in the last fiscal year, which ran from October 2017 to September 2018, were in Flowery Branch, Winder, Buford and Hoschton.

And the hospital’s employees want NGMC Braselton to be a fixture in the community.

“We have a three-quarter mile wellness walking trail that surrounds the campus. That trail was funded by employee donations. It actually allows our community to come to the campus, enjoy the walking trail. They might bring their pets, they might ride their bike. ... Then we invite them in to have lunch,” Kevin Matson, executive director of operations at NGMC Braselton, said.

Matson said the hospital also reaches the community through its labor and delivery services, which provide patients with happy memories of the hospital.

“Labor and delivery programs are very important in the community and to the hospital’s success because oftentimes, it can be the first introduction the community has to the hospital,” Matson said. “They develop wonderful memories of that time and they drive past the hospital, and they may not need our services for many years, but they remember that’s where my daughter was born, or that’s where my son was born.”

The Braselton hospital has been delivering babies since September 2016 and since then, the hospital has seen almost 2,000 deliveries. By the end of the year, the hospital will have an expanded labor and delivery section with 22 additional post-partum beds.

Tara Jernigan, NGMC Braselton’s chief nursing officer, also said she has spoken with patients who live in the community and want to be able to give birth near home.

“Folks I talk to, especially young families, love Braselton and want to have their babies here. ... As this area has grown and more young families have moved in in this area, it offers them another option for a place to deliver their baby,” Jernigan said.

Matson said the hospital is also considering an emergency department expansion. In its last fiscal year, the emergency department had almost 48,000 visits, compared to about 42,000 the year before that.

Another expansion being planned is the addition of 24 acute care beds, a $12 million project. That expansion would start in July and finish by April 2020. An ambulatory surgery center, which would focus on general surgery, spine care and orthopedics, is also planned and has a tentative opening date of spring 2021.

“Ambulatory surgery centers offer a unique way for hospitals to offer a high-quality surgery care but without all the cost that goes along with operating a surgery center inside a hospital,” Matson said. “This often allows for more cost-effective treatment for the patient as well.”

Both the ambulatory surgery center and the bed expansion will have to be approved by the Georgia Department of Community Health, which evaluates proposals for new health care facilities through its Certificate of Need program.

Various equipment is stored on an unfinished level of Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton that will eventually be used for medical and surgery purposes. - photo by Austin Steele

The ambulatory surgery center would be on the first floor of the new Medical Plaza 2 building, which would also house other medical offices and is expected to open at about the same time as the surgery center.

NGMC Braselton will hear whether the surgery center was approved by the state on March 25, according to Anthony Williamson, the hospital’s president.

Williamson said another certificate of need the hospital has filed is for a second linear accelerator for radiation therapy. The hospital’s only machine is often in use because of the growth of the oncology program, he said.

Braselton’s Heart Center moved from the first floor to the fifth floor in September 2018, doubling the amount of space for the facility.

The hospital also plans to add a third catheterization lab by the end of the year for interventional cardiac care and hopes to achieve primary stroke designation by the end of the year.

Patients wait to be seen at the Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Braselton on Friday, March 1, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele