When Northeast Georgia Health System opened its North Patient Tower in April 2009, Lanier Park Hospital wrapped up a long history as an inpatient facility.
But the question remained: What becomes of the building that served as a staple of area health care since June 1977?
That soon got an answer as hospital officials began looking to replace New Horizons West nursing home at 1010 Dawsonville Highway.
They weighed options, but all roads led back to the Lanier Park campus, which sits off Beverly and White Sulphur roads in Gainesville.
“This building was so perfect for converting,” said Henry Roberts, the hospital’s long-term care director. “In my opinion, it was almost a no-brainer.”
The inpatient section was a one-story building with readily available parking and in a location familiar to many long-time residents.
Plus, “The way the existing wings are laid out, with nursing stations (in each wing), just made (the project) so convenient,” said project manager Jack Enloe.
“You’re doing extensive work in this building, but you’re not pushing a wall out anywhere,” Roberts said during a tour of the construction zone last week. “This brick structure is staying exactly as it is, to almost exactly accommodate what we have got in the other building.”
Lanier Park’s front part, including the atrium, will remain open for doctors offices and other outpatient services, but the inpatient section has been gutted as part of a nearly $7.2 million makeover.
Work started in March on the project, with the plan to finish by the last week of August.
When finished, the new center will feature 35 semiprivate and 48 private rooms, each with its own restroom and cable TV. The center also will feature a cafeteria, dining room, beauty salon and activity room.
“The building is going to be a little more than 50 percent larger than our existing facility,” Roberts said.
The activity and rehabilitation service rooms will be much larger, he added.
Standing in what will be the activity room, Roberts said, “Looking at it, now that (workers) are putting some shape to it, it’s exciting.”
New Horizons West, which was built in 1976, will get a new name, especially as the facility won’t be “West” any more. Northeast Georgia’s other long-term care center, New Horizons North, off Limestone Parkway, is nearby.
Operations will remain the same at New Horizons North, including, most likely, the name. That center was built in 1985.
“We’ve done some renovation (there),” Roberts said. “There’s nothing specifically scheduled now.”
He said that West residents and staff are excited about the move to Lanier Park.
“I always knew it was a possibility,” Roberts said. “And then, sometime after April 2009, the decision was made to go forward.
“And I remember looking at the preliminary drawings and thinking, ‘Wow, you just took West and laid it there and it just fits almost perfectly.”
The move will require some careful planning.
“You’re taking residents who are infirmed, who have physical limitations, so that’s going to be difficult,” Roberts said.
“We’ll be using the organization’s transport (services) and some other folks we use locally. There’ll be at least one day that will be hectic getting people over.”
Roberts said the logistics issue hasn’t been discussed fully yet.
“That will take several weeks of planning,” he said.
Hopefully, Roberts added, “some families will take their loved one out to lunch, delay for a little and then bring them over here.”