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Gainesville's new temporary medical unit will provide 20 beds to address COVID-19
Kemp press conference
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference April 1, 2020, at Liberty Plaza across the street from the Georgia state Capitol building in downtown Atlanta. - photo by Alyssa Pointer | Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

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Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville will be getting an additional 20 beds on May 5 to expand capacity for COVID-19 patients.

The temporary medical unit is one of four that the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency is opening in the state. It is in addition to two 13-bed mobile units  that opened in March at the Gainesville and Braselton hospital campuses.

The Georgia Department of Health has confirmed 363 coronavirus cases from Hall County as of April 14. Northeast Georgia Health System serves Hall and the surrounding area. Statewide, just under 20% of COVID-19 cases are hospitalized.

Gov. Brian Kemp first announced Gainesville was getting a temporary unit at a press conference Monday, April 13. Other units will be in Rome, Albany and Macon.

“We are opening these units across the state in the event that there is an influx of COVID-19 patients,” according to a statement from GEMA. “These units are fully equipped and the state is providing clinical medical staff to augment hospital staff, so they will essentially work as an additional unit to the facility.”

The state has partnered with Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia company that assists health care facilities with staffing needs, to bring about 570 additional health care workers to health systems.

Matthew Crumpton, NGMC’s emergency preparedness manager, said the hospital is working with GEMA to finalize the details for the unit.

“We’re not sure exactly what staffing levels will look like yet, where those workers are coming from or which patients will be cared for in the mobile ICU. We’re still getting details from GEMA this week that will impact how we adjust our operations,” Crumpton said in a statement. “We do know our human resources and other support teams will help coordinate on-site needs, and our leaders will provide clinical and administrative oversight.”

Crumpton said the hospital’s engineering teams are planning foundation, sewage and other site preparation in the gravel lot next to the North Patient Tower to accommodate the new structure.  Information technology and telecommunications staff are also working to connect phone lines and Epic, the Northeast Georgia Health System’s electronic record system.

Crumpton said the hospital is thankful for the state’s support.

“We’re very appreciative of all the state is doing to provide this and other resources, and we thank Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and our local delegation for their influence and support,” he said.

The cost of the temporary medical unit is $2.4 million, according to GEMA.

“We are committed to giving our heroic healthcare workers the staffing support necessary to win this fight,” Kemp said in a statement. “It has been inspiring to witness the work being done by those on the front lines to combat COVID-19.”

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