Northside Medical Center, as it awaits final word on an appeal of its certificate of need for a new emergency room, is moving ahead with a smaller, $2 million project that will add cystoscopy and endoscopy services at the north Columbus hospital.
“We’re bringing in materials and staging it right now,” Northside President Stan Hickson said Thursday. “We will be getting a shovel in the ground in the next couple of weeks. The schedule right now looks like we’re going to complete that project sometime in September.”
Cystoscopy is a non-surgical medical procedure in which a physician uses a cystoscope to view inside a person’s bladder or urethra. Doctors use an endoscope — a flexible tube with a light and camera — to examine someone’s digestive tract.
Neither of those services are now being offered at the hospital, which is owned by Columbus Regional Health and also operates Midtown Medical Center, where those medical procedures already take place.
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The project calls for a 6,700-square-foot, single-story addition on the east side of Northside Medical Center. It will include one cystoscopy and three endoscopy procedure rooms, along with nine preparation and recovery rooms.
“This is part of our broader vision to expand the services that we have,” said Hickson, who arrived at Northside in January, replacing Tamara Jackson as the leader of the 100-bed acute care hospital at 100 Frist Court, off Veterans Parkway and adjacent to The Hughston Clinic.
Jackson was dismissed in November as part of Columbus Regional Health’s cost-cutting moves to close the gap following a $17 million operating loss in fiscal 2013 and a projected loss in fiscal 2014. The system cut 219 positions companywide — 99 of them layoffs — to reduce its budget by more than $23 million. Prior to the cuts, its annual operating budget was about $450 million.
Hickson, whose background is in analyzing medical facilities and care, looking for cost efficiencies, said that with just under 80 days into his new job, he hasn’t found much to change thus far at Northside Medical Center. He said his former job at consulting firm Crimson was more about using quality data to improve performance.
“Our hospital has got a solid foundation and there is not a lot to change in terms of the model of care that we deliver or the outcomes,” he said. “It is really about taking what we already do with our great physician partners and our team members, our clinician staff, and delivering that to others. There have not been a lot of changes that have needed to be made.”
But Hickson knows plenty of major work lies ahead as the hospital awaits word on a $23.9 million project that will add an emergency department and expand the intensive care unit at Northside Medical Center.
Columbus Regional Health has received a “certificate of need” from the Georgia Department of Community Health allowing the project. But St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, which believes the emergency room is not necessary, has appealed the certificate.
“We are letting it work it’s way through the regulatory process,” said Hickson, who is confident the certificate and project resulting from it will be upheld upon any final appeal to the agency’s commissioner. But there is no timeline available, he said.
Basic details of the larger project include constructing a two-story addition at the southeast corner of the existing 130,000-square-foot hospital, which sits on an 18-acre campus.
The work will add 36,819 square feet of space and renovate 10,214 square feet of the existing building. The emergency department will take up 18,618 square feet of the project, giving the hospital two triage rooms, eight rapid medical evacuation rooms and a dozen exam rooms.
Another portion of the project calls for relocating and expanding the intensive care unit, and increasing the number of ICU beds from five to 12. The former ICU space will then be used for inpatient therapy.
Columbus Regional has previously mentioned the possibility of launching baby delivery service at Northside, but has yet to move forward with that and it is not part of the $23.9 million project. A certificate of need from the state would be required for that as well. Midtown Medical Center has delivered babies for decades, while St. Francis resumed doing so in late 2013 after a three-decade hiatus.
Hickson said there’s no doubt the new and expanded facilities will be needed as Columbus continues to grow toward the north and into Harris County.“We are not purely doing this to cannibalize our existing volume,” he said of the cystoscopy and endoscopy facilities now on the table for construction. “We know there’s going to be growing demand for services on the north side of Columbus. This is an opportunity to serve those needs.”
Calling it a great “opportunity and a privilege” to be at the helm of Northside as it expands and adds services in the coming years, the executive said he simply wants to build on the “legacy at Northside of extraordinary quality, of wonderful patient satisfaction, and being in the top 10 percent of many of those categories nationally that we measure ourselves.”
Northside, which employs 330 people, reported 9,710 outpatient visits and 3,875 surgeries (inpatient and outpatient combined) in fiscal 2014, which ended June 30. With a little more than two months to go in fiscal 2015, it has had 7,989 outpatient visits and 2,872 inpatient and outpatient surgeries.