Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hospital Staff Prepares for Big Move Next Door; an Expansion of Camden's Only Hospital Will Open in January

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hospital Staff Prepares for Big Move Next Door; an Expansion of Camden's Only Hospital Will Open in January

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS -- Camden County's only hospital is still relatively new.

But the county's growth has outstripped the ability for the 16-year-old Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus to provide patient care from one building -- at least for a few more months.

Construction crews are putting the final touches on a new hospital building scheduled to open in January that will be attached to the existing 56,000-square-foot facility.

The $30 million, 90,000-square-foot hospital will allow staff to work more efficiently and improve patient care, hospital administrator Howard Sepp said.

The rationale for the expansion is the old hospital is unable to accommodate patient demand because Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base was adding new submarines at a rate of more than one a year in the early 1990s, when the hospital was completed. Each submarine added about 1,000 new residents to the county and the base also was hiring thousands of civilian workers to support the subs.

"We outgrew the existing facility, almost [right] after it opened," Sepp said. "It was not meant to support services for a long time."

In recent years, hospital administrators were forced to buy or lease trailers, including some to house the lab and administration staff.

Because employees had to walk more than 100 yards to the hospital, lab manager Brendon Winstead said, his staff kept rain gear handy during summer storms to deliver lab test results to waiting physicians. In many instances, the lab results couldn't wait until the weather cleared, he said.

"My people don't like it, but they will get wet to deliver specimens," Winstead said.

Once the new hospital opens, Winstead said his staff will be moved into the old hospital and not have to brave the elements to deliver test results.

Patients also will notice a difference in care, Sepp said. All 40 rooms in the new building are private, which will reduce the possibility of infection, increase staff efficiency and make it more comfortable for patients and visitors, he said.

The new facility will have four operating rooms, doubling the capacity of the old building. …

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