U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff held a press conference alongside local leaders at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Wednesday, talking over the commotion of hammers clanking against steel beams as construction crews continued work on the hospital’s expansion of its North Tower.
Speaking to reporters and NGMC leadership, the Democrat touted his role in a bipartisan effort to procure federal funding for a $2.1 million helipad and an elevator at the new tower, a project scheduled for completion in 2025.
Both, he said, were approved by Congress in the latest government spending bill, which passed the U.S. Senate 68-29 in December.
“I’m here with a historic announcement about the expansion and improvement of trauma care in northeast Georgia,” Ossoff said. “You see, behind us here, the new north patient tower that the hospital is building to serve the community…I am delivering a new helipad to sit atop this tower to ensure that trauma patients who are brought to this hospital get the immediate care they need…it is so important to get (trauma) patients directly into the emergency department – directly into trauma care.”
“By building this new helipad and the elevator in the tower that will bring those trauma patients directly to the hospital and down to the care that they need, working together, we’re going to save lives,” he said. “...delivering this helipad with bipartisan support will make a difference for families in northeast Georgia.”
Ossoff told The Times that he was able to secure the money by working with members of both parties.
“I was able to deliver bipartisan Republican and Democratic support in the U.S. Senate to get this done,” Ossoff said. “...that’s how I was able to deliver this new helipad that will be built here. It’s important, as divided as politics seems, that we bring the country together and do what’s in the interest of families in Georgia and nationwide…in a trauma case, every second counts.”
Ossoff recognized NGMC’s position as a regional leader in healthcare, top members of the hospital’s administration and the health professions who work to bring greater quality of life to the people of Georgia and beyond.
“This facility is an asset – not just to northeast Georgia but to the whole state,” Ossoff said. “It also serves patients from Tennessee and South Carolina as well, so our whole state benefits from the hard work that (NGHS President) Carol (Burrell) and her clinical staff and administrative team put into ensuring that folks in northeast Georgia benefit from the highest standard of care…the nurses and doctors and techs who work here are heroes who serve our community every day.”
Among local leaders in attendance was Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon, who noted two major points of discussion he had with the senator before the press conference.
“The two bullet points we discussed, mainly, were the trauma center…(NGMC) becoming a Level 1 Trauma Center and the importance – because, when you have a trauma (case), there’s no geographical bounds…we need to be able to take care of our own,” Couvillon said.
Couvillon went on to emphasize exchanges he had with Ossoff regarding mental health, stressing the need to improve those services through greater access to treatment and care in facilities that, for now, aren’t available to that population.
“We have patients who are staying in the hospital 50, 60, 70, 100 days that are ready to be discharged, but they have nowhere to go – there’s not a facility to take them,” he said. “We have people who are sitting in our county jail with mental health (problems) that’s costing the taxpayers’ money day-after-day, so those were the big takeaways.”