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Construction has started on this $538M Northeast Georgia Health System hospital tower
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Visitors to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center tower groundbreaking ceremony gather on site Tuesday, March 15, 2022, near the hospital's North Patient Tower. - photo by Scott Rogers

At the top of his prepared remarks, Dr. Mohak Davé wrote “slow” as a way to keep his enthusiasm in check as he spoke to the crowd.

“For years, I’ve had a shovel in the back of my car waiting for this day,” said Northeast Georgia Health System’s chief of emergency medicine. “It’s probably been two or three cars, actually.”

“We all know we’ve needed this space for a while, and I’m grateful that we’re one step closer to this being a reality,” Davé said.

He and a couple hundred people, including doctors and health and government officials, gathered Tuesday, March 15, to mark construction starting on a 12-story patient tower at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville at 743 Spring St.

“Today is a very monumental day for all of us in Northeast Georgia Health System’s history,” said Carol Burrell, NGHS president and CEO, in a ceremony at the project site.

Grading has already been underway on the project, with fencing extending down the Downey Boulevard side of the hospital.

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Construction has already begun Tuesday, March 15, 2022, on the new patient tower at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville City Council voted late last year to approve the hospital’s 927,500-square-foot expansion.

The $538 million project, expected to be built in two phases between 2022 and 2030, calls for moving the emergency room to the ground floor of the tower, as well as adding 120 beds in the first phase and 72 beds in the second phase. Funding will come from $250 million in bonds and $288 million "out of our earnings from the last several years," according to Brian Steines, CFO for the health system.

The hospital “will also renovate approximately 10,000 square feet of existing space to connect the new tower to the existing building as well as renovations to surgery suites,” the hospital said in its application for the project.

Also in the plans are a rooftop helipad, 455-space parking deck, a 340-space expansion of the existing deck and a 40,000-square-foot, 75-foot tall building to support the tower’s energy needs.

The tower will feature 12 emergency treatment rooms just for children. The area, which will be named after longtime Gainesville pediatrician Dr. William T. “Buddy” Langston, will have its own waiting area.

“Not only will we move and enhance our emergency department, we’ll also expand access to heart and vascular care, plus add more operating rooms to treat complex stroke, neurosurgery and cancer cases,” Burrell said.

Davé said much of the planning for space in the tower happened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That allowed us to make some changes to what we initially planned,” he said. “We had the unique opportunity to design space around our workflows and even new workflows that were borne out of the COVID experiences.”

Overall, the new emergency department will be able to treat a wide range of medical issues, and “our patients will be the biggest benefactors of this space,” Davé said.

They “will be able to receive care in an environment that affords them privacy, efficiency, quality and safety that they deserve.”

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Northeast Georgia Health System board member Jackie Wallace gets a hand climbing up a mound of dirt Tuesday, March 15, 2022, for the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Northeast Georgia Medical Center new patient tower. - photo by Scott Rogers
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The Northeast Georgia Medical Center holds a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, March 15, 2022, for the hospital's new patient tower already under construction. - photo by Scott Rogers