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Fanfare over, new Braselton hospital gets to work
Activity humming on first day at new medical center in South Hall
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Lisa Baker and husband Bob hold hands as she prepares for surgery Wednesday morning at the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Baker was the first patient at the new South Hall hospital.

No bells and whistles, no band playing or special prizes as Lisa Baker waited Wednesday morning to become Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton’s first surgery patient.

But no big deal, either, as the 51-year-old was ready for the relief that advanced hip replacement surgery would bring.

“I cannot wait to enjoy days without pain and get back on the tennis court,” said Baker, who did pose for photos with her doctor, Dr. Charlie DeCook, an orthopedic surgeon with The Longstreet Clinic, before being wheeled off to surgery.

Elsewhere, activity was starting to stir at Georgia’s newest hospital, which opened for business at 7 a.m.

After much fanfare in the last week, including an open house and a soiree featuring signature donors, the 100-bed facility in South Hall was treating its first emergency patients, heating up the kitchen in Cafe 1400 and preparing for patient stays.

“We’re excited to start this new era for the Northeast Georgia Health System and serve the community in and around Greater Braselton,” president Anthony Williamson said.

“It’s been a smooth first morning, and that’s due to more than a decade of planning that led to this historic day.”

Carol Burrell, president and CEO of the Gainesville-based health system, said, “This is an exciting time for the people in South Hall, Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties and beyond.”

Hall County Emergency Medical Services arrived with the first emergency patient, Mary Forman, at 7:10 a.m., shortly after she fell at a nearby assisted living community.

She was examined by Dr. Todd Jordan, medical director of the emergency department, then underwent a CT scan. She was released around 8:45 a.m.

“I hate that she had to end up there first day, but it’s convenient,” said her son, Rodney Forman. “Typically, I’ve had to go up to Gainesville every time something happened, so (the new hospital) is good in that regard.”

Emergency room patient Mike Davidson of Braselton was treated after he discovered at work his hand swelling up and turning red and his forearm tingling.

The condition subsided, Davidson sat on the edge of his bed, prescriptions in hand.

“I had an allergic reaction to something,” he said.

When asked by an emergency responder where he wanted to be taken, Davidson said Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. The responder’s suggestion to take him to Braselton instead suited Davidson fine.

“It’s closer to home,” he said.

Elsewhere, doctors and staff were gearing up for the day and otherwise life in a new workplace. Several took a few minutes, however, to give their impressions of the hospital, which is off Ga. 347 near Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

“It’s a beautiful setup. They’ve done a great job,” said Chris Wallace, catheterization/interventional radiology coordinator.

Dr. Heather Westmoreland of The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center said she believes the surrounding community is excited to have the new hospital.

“We have a lot of patients from Gwinnett County who have been waiting for this to open,” she said. “It’s a beautiful facility, and families are excited about having a brand-new hospital to come to.”

Heart Center colleague Dr. Mark Matthews said he appreciates how the health system reached out to doctors and the public for input in how the hospital should look and serve its patients.

“Over the last few years, I’ve been privileged to (be a part of) working together to make this a top-notch hospital from the beginning.”

Heart Center nurse practitioner Kristen Rhodes said her home community, Sterling on the Lake, which is off Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch, is all abuzz about the hospital.

“It’s the talk of the neighborhood,” she said.

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