Northside Medical Center gets approval to add emergency department

Northside Medical Center in north Columbus has received state approval to construct an emergency department and expand its intensive care unit.

Columbus Regional Health, parent company of the hospital at 100 Frist Court, off Veterans Parkway, said Friday it has received a “certificate of need” from the Georgia Department of Community Health allowing the project, which will come with a price tag of $23.9 million.

Tamara “Tami” Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Northside Medical Center, on Friday called it “outstanding news” for residents of Columbus and Harris County. It offers residents, particularly those living on the north side of the city, both convenience and potentially life-saving care.

“That would be true for a person that may be having a stroke, where time does matter, or a (heart attack), where minutes matter, as well as an accident,” she said.

Northside Medical Center, just south of the Columbus Park Crossing shopping area, is about three miles or 10 minutes away from the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital. It’s about five miles or nearly 15 minutes from the ER at Midtown Medical Center near downtown Columbus.

Columbus Regional, which also owns Midtown and Doctors Specialty Hospital, closed the latter’s emergency department in June 2012, adding an urgent care center.

“That did put quite a burden on the emergency room at both Midtown Medical and St. Francis,” Jackson said. “So what we’re really doing is taking the emergency services from Doctors and now putting one in the north.”

The timeline for starting construction and getting the new facilities operating is still fuzzy at this point, the hospital CEO said. Work on design and construction plans will begin soon, with Columbus Regional putting the financial pieces for the project together.

But the basic details 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 Jackson said that is not part of this project. Midtown Medical Center has delivered babies for decades, while St. Francis resumed doing so in late 2013 after a three-decade hiatus.

“We know we have a wonderful maternal child program at Midtown and we’re looking to keep that program there, at this point,” she said.

Northside Medical Center changed its name from Hughston Hospital last year, and has long been a hub for orthopedic surgeries since opening in 1984. But it recently added general surgery to the mix, including abdominal, breast and colon procedures. The hospital also handles plastic surgery now.

Northside, which employs 334 people, reported 1,950 inpatient surgical procedures in 2012, with 1,304 outpatient surgeries.

The emergency department expects about 20,500 patient visits in its first year, with that increasing to around 22,500 in the second year of service.

It all adds up to a much busier, bustling atmosphere for Northside in the coming years, said Jackson, who marked her first anniversary as CEO of the hospital last week.

“We’re currently a 100-bed hospital, but one wing has been closed for a period of time. So we plan on opening that with the emergency room. It’s currently there; it’s not new construction,” she said. “But, yes, we anticipate it becoming a very busy acute-care hospital.”