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Plans for New Emergency & Trauma Center and NICU Approved

Albany, GA | Jan. 5, 2022 – Wednesday, the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board of directors approved a $140 million plan for a major set of construction projects that would include a new emergency and trauma center, a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a new intensive care unit (ICU).  The vote clears the way for Phoebe to apply for certificates of need for the projects from the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH).

“These projects will transform the delivery of emergency services in southwest Georgia by creating the largest and most advanced emergency and trauma center in the region.  It will also dramatically expand our NICU space and allow us to remain on the cutting-edge of care for our tiniest patients, and it will provide us with additional intensive care rooms and more efficient and modern space for our critical care teams,” said Joe Austin, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital CEO.

To minimize taking on additional debt, most of the money for the project will come from Phoebe’s hospital investment fund which was established more than 20 years ago to build reserves for major projects through wise financial investments. That funding will be supplemented by philanthropic donations.  “This project will provide incredible benefits for our community, and we will need the community’s support to make it a reality,” said Carolyn Higgins, Phoebe Foundation President and Chief Fundraising Officer.  “We hope people will be excited to advocate for and directly invest in the creation of our area’s first true trauma center and the expansion and improvement of our amazing NICU where miracles happen every day,” she added.

The projects will have both short-term and long-term impacts on the local economy.  “This is a major building project that will create a significant number of construction jobs over the next several years, and experts tell us a project of this size could have a $400 million economic impact,” Austin said.  “Once the new facilities are up and running, the expansion will likely create another 125-150 jobs at Phoebe, providing additional employment opportunities in our community, increasing our payroll by $7 million or more and further boosting the economy.”

The new emergency and trauma center will incorporate aspects and ideas shared by community members who took part in focus group sessions two years ago.  “In designing this facility, it was important for us to listen to people who will actually use it.  We also visited some of the finest new emergency centers in the country, and we have taken lessons learned through the pandemic to develop a truly exceptional and patient-centered facility,” Austin said.

Pending DCH approval, the new 4-story tower will be constructed on the north side of the main hospital and will connect to the current ER.  The Albany City Commission recently voted to close W. 4th Ave. in the middle of the 400 block, allowing construction to take place in and across the road.  The road closure will not affect any other property owners.

“We appreciate the cooperation of our city leaders, and we will continue to work closely with them as we move forward,” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System President & CEO.  “With the road closure approval and today’s vote by the hospital board, our next step will be to file a letter of intent with DCH this month, letting them know a formal certificate of need (CON) application with details of the construction project will be forthcoming,” Steiner said.

Phoebe’s plans also include complete renovations of the current emergency center, the primary NICU and three ICUs.  The first floor of the new building will house emergency and trauma services, the second will be the NICU and the third will be a 20-bed ICU that will expand the main hospital’s critical care capacity to 60 beds.  A fourth floor will initially be left as shell space, available for future expansion needs.

In the spring, Phoebe plans to apply for separate CONs, asking the state for permission to expand its NICU to around 50 beds.  Currently, the hospital is licensed for 27 beds but averages about 40 NICU patients daily.  “As a state-designated regional perinatal center, we care for premature babies from 22 counties.  There is a tremendous need for expanded NICU services in our area.  Our NICU team does an incredible job caring for these babies in cramped quarters.  This expansion will allow us to advance our care, improve our service to families and provide a better and more efficient workspace for our team,” said Jack Owens, MD, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Medical Director of Neonatology.

Phoebe hopes to complete the CON process in time to begin construction on the new tower later this year, with a projected completion date of early 2025.  Renovations of current NICU space and other intensive care areas would take place over the following several years.