“Anxious. Nervous. Prepared.”
One week prior to opening day of Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Braselton campus, hospital president Anthony Williamson watched as staff members flurried around, going through one more training session before the hospital opened its doors to the public.
“I think we’ve done a great job in getting ready,” Williamson said, sitting at a cafeteria table in the building’s three-story atrium. “I think anybody who is about to launch such a venture would have a little bit of nervousness about them, but I think we’ve got a great team here who has focused on bringing our high-quality services that we’re so known for in Gainesville to Braselton.”
Since the past few years have been “atypical” for the hospital administrator — it’s not every day a new hospital is built — Williamson is ready to throw open the doors and get down to business. He plans to be there when the first patient walks in, he said.
“A typical day will consist of ... physicians tend to meet early in the morning so there are a lot of 6:30, 7 a.m. meetings,” he said. “We have a Tier 1 level (meeting) that happens early in the morning. That eventually rolls up to a Tier 3 level (meeting) that we will do every day here as part of our oversight.”
It’s high-quality patient care that Williamson is after, and something he’s enmeshed into his hospital since the earliest planning stages.
And it can truly be said it’s Williamson’s hospital — his fingerprints are all over it.
Williamson served as a vice president for Northeast Georgia Health System since 2010, overseeing the development of the Braselton hospital and medical campus. He was promoted to his position in 2014.
He first started with NGHS in 2005 as vice president of professional services and then moved into the vice president of service line and greater Braselton development role.
When not working, he prefers spending time with his family.
“We enjoy being outdoors, being in nature,” he said about the activities he enjoys with his wife and daughter. “Hiking, outdoor-type activities, gardening, landscaping.”
And the hospital itself is designed to provide as authentic an experience with nature as possible.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do here is try to allow this facility to not necessarily look like a hospital,” Williamson said. “So the design (has) the focus on natural materials — wood, stone, a lot of large open spaces and windows — we’ve tried to achieve that.”
For Williamson and his team, responding to community input has been at the heart of the entire planning and development process of the new hospital.
“I would say one of the big things that came out of the project with the public was that they didn’t want this facility to be a place that they came to only when they were sick,” he said. “I think their vision was (they) would love to have a facility or a destination that (they) could incorporate into (their) lifestyles, that becomes part of (their) wellness regime.”
Listening to community input, Williamson incorporated an educational center at the hospital, including a patient resource center where people can research health conditions during the week. He plans to bring in educational classes community members can attend.
Once again he’s bringing his love of the outdoors and being active to the hospital, incorporating Braselton’s LifePath, a 10-foot wide sidewalk, into the design.
“You’ll see a lot of people walking and bicycling and jogging,” Williamson said, his enthusiasm picking up. “So we’ve extended that from the front of the property by the road all the way to the front door here of the hospital, where they can continue their walks.”
He hopes to add more nature trails and gardens to the campus, as well, through philanthropic donations.
But it’s not just that Williamson has been the guiding force for the planning and development of the hospital. He lives just 10 minutes down the road in Hoschton.
“It’s important to be a part of the community where you work,” Williamson said. “For us to live here and be a part of this community ... this will be our hospital, too.
“It allows me to get a lot of input from the community on a regular basis,” he added. “I’m a runner, so as I run through the neighborhood I’m always hearing, ‘Anthony, we’re all excited about the hospital coming,’ or ‘When is the hospital going to open?’ So there’s a lot of connectivity there.
“It’s nice to be so close to home.”