Medical Plaza 400 celebrated five years in Dawsonville this week with a Business After Hours event hosted by the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce.
Medical Plaza 400 opened in April 2013 as a branch of Northeast Georgia Health System, a non-for-profit community health system that serves more than 18 counties in northeast Georgia with anchor hospital campuses in Gainesville, Braselton and Barrow.
The over 25,00 square foot, two-story Dawsonville medical center hosts Northeast Georgia Physicians Group and an urgent care facility that is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
“When we first started out here on the western perimeter of our service area, we were a little bit nervous but I have to say how welcoming and how wonderful this community is,” said Jo Brewer, director of lab services for Medical Plaza 400, during the event. “My hope (when) we celebrated our opening was that this beautiful facility would end up being a place of healing and a place of hope and I think you’ll all agree we have achieved that.”
State Representative Kevin Tanner, who has lived in Dawson County all his life, said that one of the things the county lacked when he was growing up was an urgent care facility, and that he and his family members would have to travel elsewhere for medical care after hours.
“One of the things we talk about a lot in the general assembly, as we travel around the state, is healthcare and the fact that so many of our communities in rural Georgia are losing healthcare facilities. I'm thankful that we don't have that issue in our community,” Tanner said.
Tanner said that since the facility opened five years ago, nearly 70,000 patients have visited the Urgent Care Center, almost 35,000 have visited the Imaging Center and thousands more have visited the physician offices and Health Link Lab.
“There is no question of whether or not this is needed in our community, those are staggering numbers,” Tanner said.
Tad Gomez, vice president of Professional and Support Services for NGHS, said that when Medical Plaza 400 was first opened, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group offered services that included family medicine, neurology, general surgery consults, urology and sports medicine. Services have since expanded to include behavioral health, internal medicine and orthopedic surgery consults.
The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center also has an office at the plaza and Imaging Services has added new technologies such as 3D mammography, which was added in June of this year.
Patients visiting Medical Plaza 400 have access to the 3D Automated Breast Ultrasounds, called ABUS, which provide a more detailed view as a supplement to traditional 2D mammography.
Julie Pardue Presley, MD, of Gainesville Radiology Group and medical director of Women’s Imaging at NGMC, told the Gainesville Times in July that traditional mammograms give radiologists a flat, two-dimensional representation of the breast.
“The new technology creates a 3D image using many layers of the breast, so fine details are more visible and no longer hidden by the tissue above or below,” she said. “The technology means radiologists have to do fewer callbacks for repeat exams because what appeared to be questionable in a traditional image may be very clear in a 3D image.”
The technology reduces the chance of being called back for a follow-up mammogram by 40 percent. The ABUS is not any more invasive than a traditional mammogram and is covered by most insurance providers.
Gomez said that NGHS also recently launched a new electronic medical records system called Epic, which is available to all providers at all locations within the system so that doctors and nurses can easily access a patient’s entire chart with medications, test results and medical history. In addition patients can access their information through an app called MyChart.
Gomez also addressed the medical system’s plans for Lumpkin County. NGHS purchased the Chestatee Regional Hospital property in Lumpkin in July.
“We then sold the property to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, and we are now leasing that property back,” Gomez said. “We know that many people are anxious to know what health care in Lumpkin County will look like moving forward, and I can assure you that we are well in the middle of planning for exactly what that’s going to mean.”
Gomez said that within the past month they had hosted 20 focus groups and interviews with community leaders and healthcare providers to gather their input on what services could be successful and sustainable in Lumpkin County.
He said that they have launched an online survey and encouraged everyone to provide their thoughts on the future of NGHS at nghs.com/Lumpkin.
“We would like as much community input on this group of decisions as possible,” Gomez said. “We hope to finalize our plans by the end of this year.”