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Long-term plan for Braselton hospital comes to fruition
Medical Center's South Hall facility opens April 1
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Visitors to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton roam the hallways peeking into rooms Sunday afternoon during an open house event for the public.

Timeline

Work began more than a decade ago to create a new hospital in South Hall County. After detailed plans, legal battles, construction, hiring and training, the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Braselton campus opens today on 119 acres off Ga. 347 near Old Winder Highway.

  • November 2006: Northeast Georgia Medical Center files its certificate of need application for a South Hall County hospital.
  • May 2007: The Georgia Department of Community Health approves the certificate. Barrow Regional Medical Center files suit appealing the decision.
  • September 2008: NGMC opens Medical Plaza 1 on the new hospital campus off Ga. 347 west of Ga. 211.
  • December 2008: Barrow County Superior Court rules in favor of the Barrow hospital.
  • March 2010: The Georgia Court of Appeals reverses the Barrow Superior Court’s decision and reinstates NGMC’s certificate. BRMC again appeals.
  • September 2010: Georgia Supreme Court upholds NGMC’s certificate.
  • December 2012: Clergy and dignitaries gather to bless the land where the new 100-bed hospital will be built.
  • February 2013: Foundation work underway on the new 100-bed hospital.
  • June 2013: Drilling for geothermal wells, which will help provide heating and cooling for the hospital.
  • October 2013: Topping out ceremony held.
  • Spring 2014: Interior finishes begin.
  • January 2015: Medical Plaza B opens.
  • March 26: Georgia first lady Sandra Deal speaks at a Medical Center Foundation event recognizing key donors.
  • March 29: An open house is held, allowing public tours of the hospital.
  • April 1: The new hospital opens.

Coverage of the opening of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton

See a special section on the hospital opening in Wednesday's print edition of The Times

In a journey that has taken nearly a decade to complete, the 100-bed Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton opens today in South Hall County.

“It’s been a long time planning, developing and designing, and now it’s time to become operational,” hospital president Anthony Williamson said. “And I think everybody here is just really looking forward to that opportunity to begin serving the community.”

Hospital staff and doctors have been putting final touches on the hospital in the past few weeks, including going through dry runs in departments and checking and rechecking equipment.

And though patients will be received for the first time today, the hospital has opened its doors already in other public functions, including an open house Sunday and a donor recognition Thursday night.

NGMC Braselton, which is off Ga. 347 near Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, certainly marks a major expansion of the Gainesville-based Northeast Georgia Health System.

For decades, the main hospital has been off Spring Street in Gainesville.

“We’ve established a brand over the many years ... of terrific care, compassionate care, strength in our clinical outcomes, but also strength in how we handle families and our personal interactions and the level of customer service we provide,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of the health system, in a prepared statement. “And we’re just really excited to be bringing that level of care to the Braselton area. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us. ...

“It took a tremendous amount of vision and community support to make this dream a reality.”

Burrell cited “incredible support” from the Hall County Board of Commissioners “at every juncture, including the backing of our bonds and the tangible benefit this support brings to our entire community.”

The hospital offers a broad range of advanced surgical and medical services, with an emphasis on outpatient surgery as well as emergency services and specialty care in many areas, such as cardiology, oncology, orthopedics and neurosciences.

Overall, Williamson said, “doctors, nurses, clinical staff and community members all participated in the process of designing our beautiful new hospital and creating a health care experience that will be patient- and family-focused.”

Today’s opening kicks off an era of enhanced medical care for South Hall, especially in an area near Braselton and Gwinnett and Barrow counties and not too far from busy Interstate 85.

The county’s emergency services will be ready to respond as needed when the hospital opens, said Chad Black, deputy chief of Hall County Fire Services.

“It will help us keep medical units in the south end of the county by transporting to (the Braselton) hospital” instead of Gwinnett Medical Center, Northside Hospital-Forsyth or NGMC in Gainesville, he said.

And the highest call volumes are in South Hall.

The opening also marks the end of a long process in hospital development.

Many new residents flooding the fast-growing area stretching from Buford to Braselton may not even realize the hospital

originally was planned on 52 acres on Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway at what was then Friendship Road (now Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway).

In June 2004, the hospital board restudied the area’s growth and decided to look for a new location on the east side of Interstate 985.

Eventually, officials settled on 119 acres in what was wide-open land off Thompson Mill Road and next to Village at Deaton Creek, a booming retirement community in Hoschton.

But the site wouldn’t remain remote, as the Georgia Department of Transportation had plans at the time to build a new Ga. 347 between I-985 and Ga. 211, with six lanes running by the hospital campus.

Logistics aside, the health system had to earn state certification for the new hospital, and it began that process in November 2006.

The Georgia Department of Community Health approved the certificate of need in May 2007, but opposition from Barrow Regional Medical Center would throw the matter into the courts.

Finally, in September 2010, the hospital got the green light to move forward on the project after the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the certificate of need.

To get public input on how the new hospital should look, as well as serve the area, the hospital held about 10 community meetings.

“We also did an online survey, where he had more than 1,000 people submit feedback,” health system spokeswoman Melissa Tymchuk said.

The hospital conducted a “patient experience” process involving different treatment scenarios, such as working with someone in the emergency room or a person afflicted with cancer.

“We had staff, physicians and community members participate, and they gave 40-plus hours of time to that,” Tymchuk said.

The project’s architect, Minneapolis-based HGA, helped move the process along, having done something similar with a previous hospital client.

“We wanted to know things that would make (the hospital) a destination, if you will,” said Kurt Spiering, a principal in the firm. “We just wanted to find out what the community was looking for ... that it might become more than just a health care facility on that site.”

In December 2012, area clergy blessed the property in an unusual groundbreaking ceremony featuring Gov. Nathan Deal and other dignitaries.

Foundation work began on the $114 million project in February 2013.

With the hospital trying to make the building as environmentally friendly as possible, workers began drilling on 150 geothermal wells in an open field in June 2013. The wells are expected to provide heating and cooling for the hospital.

Patients started getting a peek at the new hospital in January, when the attached five-story, 113,000-square-foot Medical Plaza B, which features specialty practices and services, opened.

Officials long had projected the hospital would open by April 1, but it wasn’t a certainty until March 20.

More openings are likely to come as the campus continues to expand, including more patient rooms and services.

Many of the practices that moved to Medical Plaza B came from nearby Medical Plaza 1, which opened in 2008.

In July, a bridge connecting Medical Plaza 1 to a road circling the hospital campus is expected to be finished.

Plans call for an eventual Medical Plaza 2. The hospital serves as the campus’ A building, with future plans for C and D buildings, officials have said.

Radiation therapy services are expected to start at Medical Plaza 1 by the end of this year.

And the hospital has received a certificate of need from the Department of Community Health for obstetric services.

The certificate requires the hospital to complete work on the new unit by Jan. 2, 2017.

In keeping with that deadline, the hospital will submit plans to the state by September, Tymchuk has said.

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