At a time of concern over a physician shortage in rural parts of Georgia, Augusta's medical community is making major investments to expand services in Columbia County.
Work crews are forging ahead with construction of a $13 million expansion of the Evans University Hospital complex, while MCG Health Inc. and Physicians Practice Group will soon seek regulatory approval for a first phase of its planned medical campus at Knob Hill Farm and Washington roads.
Kyle Howell, University's vice president for support and facilities services, said construction of a three-story, fourth medical office building is on schedule for completion in December.
Crews with HDR Construction of Omaha, Neb., are more than halfway finished with the building and are currently completing the second level of a 264-space parking deck - the county's first, Howell said.
The 60,000-square-foot building will include space for more than 30 physicians and a 7,500-square-foot diagnostic imaging center. The imaging center will offer MRI, CT scans, mammography and ultrasound services.
University officials are still in discussions with interested physicians groups about leasing space.
"The main thing we're interested in getting open with that building is the diagnostic imaging center," Howell said, adding that physicians throughout the campus are eagerly awaiting those services.
As University officials complete their expansion, PPG President Dr. Curt Steinhart said his group is completing internal planning for a $26 million first phase for a medical campus near the Greenbrier schools.
PPG and MCG Health, which are private entities affiliated with the Medical College of Georgia, plan to begin construction of their own diagnostic imaging center and an ambulatory surgery center in 2008, pending state approval of a certificate of need. A certificate of need is a state license required to add hospital beds and expensive medical equipment to a state-determined hospital service area.
The groups have been deliberate in planning since they won a rezoning for about 58 acres of land near the intersection of Washington and Knob Hill Farm roads last year.
"This is a huge investment, a huge undertaking and you just don't rush these things," Steinhart said.
During the planning process, Steinhart said the groups formed a patient group to help in the design of the campus and treatment areas.
"We expect that will result in a unique and fairly differentiated service because everything will be done with the patient perspective," he said.
Steinhart said the campus will offer the expertise of the state's health sciences university and bring "the most current, modern and advanced care techniques" to the county. Though MCG Health and PPG are private entities and no public funds will be used in the construction or operation of the campus, he said it will be a learning platform for the medical college.
"It will certainly help MCG expand its educational enterprise," he said.
The 60,000-square-foot first phase could be completed within a year of state regulatory approval, he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.