The Northeast Georgia Health System will open two suites this month in Gainesville’s Sherwood Plaza shopping center to expand staff training and administrative operations.
One suite in the strip mall already is operating as a training unit for instruction to department-based staff, from nurses to practitioners, on electronic medical recordkeeping practices.
The new suites will expand this continuing education with two 25-seat classrooms and open additional administrative offices.
The electronic records training especially is critical for patients accessing their health information through an available phone application, hospital officials said.
Space for IT support also is available in the renovated suites.
NGHS purchased the shopping center on South Enota Drive in September 2017.
Officials said the acquisition would help move supporting role departments from the inpatient medical center campus, located less than a mile away off Spring Street, to make room for additional clinical space.
Several businesses, including the restaurants Loco’s Grill & Pub and El Sombrero, continue to operate and maintain leases with NGHS, while other businesses have departed.
According to spokeswoman Beth Downs, NGHS works off a master facilities plan for 18 counties in the region, which includes proposals for additional current or projected space needs.
There is no “comprehensive” use planned for the entirety of Sherwood Plaza at this time, Downs said.
“But we have things like graduate medical education and other large initiatives that are growing at a rapid pace, and there is certainly potential in the future for that plaza to be any number of things,” she added.
Rudy Lonergan, director of facilities development, said the use of formerly commercial space for hospital operations is new to the health system, but it’s a practice that has been employed elsewhere.
For example, Gwinnett Medical Center in 2013 purchased a 72,000-square-foot vacant shopping center in Duluth to expand its operational capacity.
“As we grow, we need space to care for our patients,” Lonergan said. “We are converting storage space in the hospital constantly, so that’s going away.”
And that means the space at Sherwood Plaza once previously occupied by Food Lion could be used for temporary storage needs.
“That is a possibility,” Lonergan said.