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Hospitals offer strong economic medicine
Report: NE Georgia Medical Center feeds money, jobs into local economy
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According to a recently released report, hospitals are more than just a place where sick people go to get better. They also play an important role in a community’s economic health.

As reported in the Georgia Hospital Association’s Economic Impact Report, hospitals contributed more than $14 billion to the state’s economy in 2007, the most current year of available data.

Locally, the report states Northeast Georgia Medical Center directly contributed more than $360 million.

“We’re very proud to not only provide high-quality health care services to our community — as validated by our recent recognition as a Thompson Reuters Top 100 hospital — but to also serve as an economic anchor during these uncertain times,” said Jim Gardner, Northeast Georgia Health System CEO and president.

Additionally, the report says the medical center directly employed 4,191 full- and part-time workers in 2007, which generated an additional 8,364 jobs in the local community. Despite the economic downturn, the medical center has been able to retain 4,030 of those workers to date.

Although their number of employees may have decreased, slightly, Gardner says it wasn’t because of any knee-jerk reactions to the economic downturn.

“We have done many great things that I’m proud of during the six years that I have been with the health system, but the single thing that I am most proud of was that in 2008 and 2009 during the height of the economic downturn, we did not lay off a single employee,” Gardner said.

“We’re responsible for the economic lives of our staff as well as the health of our patients and that’s something that we don’t take lightly.”

Maintaining the bulk of their staff over the years required a solid foundation that was built years prior, Gardner said.

“Back in 2005, before the economic crisis, we took major strides to get our cost structure in much better order. That’s the only reason the (Women and Children’s Pavilion) and the North Patient Tower exist,” said Gardner.

“We didn’t know it at the time that in 2008 the world would change economically for all of us, but that work positioned us to (complete those additions) at the height of the downturn. At the same time, the changes also put is in a position where in a moment of crisis we weren’t forced to do some sort of reduction in (staffing).”

Overall, the center’s economic impact was around $890 million in 2007, the report says,

“The fact that we help bring economic stability to the community, have weathered these tough economic times and continue to do an incredible job by our patients is something that we take very seriously,” Gardner said.

“We will continue working hard to ensure citizens of this community have access to top quality health care services close to home.”

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