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ER services at new Braselton hospital will help speed response
Visitors to the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton explore the emergency area Sunday afternoon as thousands visit the new hospital during an open h ouse.

Hospital coverage
The Times plans special coverage in print and online leading up to the opening of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Braselton campus. That coverage will include a special section Wednesday.

Making sure that Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton’s opening syncs with Hall County’s emergency services has been anything but an afterthought in the new hospital’s overall planning efforts, officials say.

In fact, planning started when the Gainesville-based Northeast Georgia Health System first sought state certification nearly a decade ago, said Chad Black, deputy chief of Hall County Fire Services.

“We were partners throughout the whole process,” said Scott Masters, the hospital’s director of emergency medical transportation.

Officials knew then of the relief a new hospital would bring to people in need of emergency services, as well as emergency responders.

“We daily run out of ambulances in the south end of Hall County and have to rotate trucks from the north to the south to help cover (calls) because it’s so busy,” Black said.

The hospital opening “will help us keep medical units in the south end by transporting to Braselton” instead of Gwinnett Medical Center, Northside Hospital-Forsyth or Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, he said.

Most emergency cases can be treated at the new 100-bed hospital, which is off Ga. 347 near Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

Patients who need interventional heart care still will need to be taken to the Gainesville hospital, as will major trauma and obstetrics patients.

Even the number of OB patients headed to Gainesville will drop at some point, as the hospital has received a certificate of need from the Department of Community Health for obstetric services. The certificate requires the hospital to complete work on the new unit by Jan. 2, 2017.

Patients needing other specialized attention could be sent to other hospitals — as has been the case with just the Gainesville campus open. For example, burn victims would go to a designated burn center, and spinal-cord-injury victims would go to the Shepherd Clinic in Atlanta.

The real benefit for area emergency patients will be shorter response times, whether they arrive at the new hospital by ambulance or medical helicopter. A helipad is located in a field just outside the emergency department.

“Usually, we stay ahead of the game,” Black said. “If everybody starts getting busy, we’ll rotate trucks (from other parts of Hall) before the call comes in and trying to have (units in the south), but it doesn’t always work out that way.

“Sometimes, four or five calls come in within a couple of minutes of each other.”

The highest call volumes are in fast-growing South Hall, Black said.

Still, if possible, an alert patient can choose where to be treated. “They get to be transported to any hospital that’s within reasonable distance,” Masters said.   

In a serious wreck, for example, where responders must choose, “you have to look at where the trauma centers are, at that point,” he said.

The other nearest trauma centers in the area are at Athens Regional Medical Center and Gwinnett Medical Center.

Overall, with the Braselton hospital’s emergency room, not only will people get treatment quicker, Masters said, “but we’re freeing up resources — ambulances and the staff — so they can get back to their service area quicker.”

The new hospital especially could take pressure off the Gainesville hospital’s emergency department, which is one of the busiest in the state.

“I remember when it was (Braselton) size or smaller,” Black said. “It’s just unbelievable to see the growth. I still think that in 10 years, if (growth) continues as it is, this campus may be bigger than the one in Gainesville.”