Surrounded by government and healthcare officials from around the region, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin’s Interim President, Sonja McLendon, called the new planned hospital facility “truly a community effort.”
Northeast Georgia Health System hosted a groundbreaking for the forthcoming hospital facility on June 22 at its 57-acre site near the intersection of Ga. 400 and Ga. 60.
“It obviously takes much more than a village to make something like this happen,” McLendon said, praising the efforts of healthcare providers, hospital workers and various community officials and members.
The new facility is expected to open in Fall 2023, though supply chain-related delays could push back its premiere until early 2024. NGMC Lumpkin’s current campus is at 227 Mountain Drive in Dahlonega. Plans for the new site began back in 2019 and were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first iteration of the new Lumpkin campus is expected to bring around 150 jobs to the area, and it will be proximate to NGMC Gainesville, a Level 2 trauma center.
Plans for the hospital include 16 spacious visitor and patient-friendly hospital rooms, said
NGHS Board Chair Spence Price.
The emergency room will have 10 treatment rooms, four observation rooms and a separate entrance and exit. Surgery services will include three operating rooms and orthopedic, sports medicine and general surgery focuses.
There will also be a cafe and dining area, as well as a lab and pharmacy. Specialized services will be offered in cardiology, psychology, pulmonology, neurology and nephrology, Price said.
“Very importantly, this hospital has been designed to grow and expand as the surrounding community grows,” he added.“We know now, more than ever, that a hospital is vital to every community. We are acutely aware of the profound significance of what we’re doing here today and what it will leave for generations to come.”
Price compared the helpfulness of NGMC Lumpkin to the abundance in the area going back two centuries, and he hopes that abundance will continue.
“It's the people and the culture that will attract not only the right physicians and nurses, but also the businesses that will depend on excellent healthcare for their employees,” he said. “NGMC
Lumpkin will be a gem and asset for this bustling Ga. 400 corridor for years and years to come.”
NGHS President & CEO Carol Burrell described the hospital in Lumpkin as “an important part of the community for the past 45 years,” from its inception in 1976 to its stint as Chestatee Regional Hospital and its closing and rebranding to become the current medical center.
Rather than permanently join a trend of what Burrell called “rural hospitals closing throughout the nation,” she recounted how a mix of leaders in state government, the University of North Georgia and other community members galvanized around the goal of bringing the hospital back to life.
Then in 2019, the current facility reopened as NGMC Lumpkin under the banner of NGHS. Although now, three years later, Burrell said their ownership “won’t change like it has been” and is here to stay.
She spoke to her confidence about planning for a smartly-sized, scalable hospital that provides what community members will need and use while also respecting contributions of past supporters of local hospital efforts.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have dust on my shoes…it’s productive dust,” Chris Dockery, the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners chairman, said.
Dockery also pointed to the late District 1 commissioner David Miller’s vision for a new hospital to come to fruition. Miller, who was also a professor in healthcare management at Brenau University, died last year.
“He shared an enthusiasm to see this happen, and he kept that spirit alive amongst the community…he was instrumental in guiding and planning this hospital that we’re here to celebrate today,” Dockery said. “I know he’s looking down on us, and he’s proud of the accomplishments of this community and Northeast Georgia Health System.”
State Sen. Steve Gooch, a sixth-generation native of Lumpkin County, praised the steps that NGHS has taken to help the community. Gooch specifically mentioned how he and his other colleagues in state government helped put money in the FY2019 budget to purchase the current hospital in Dahlonega.
Gooch shared how he was born in what’s now the NGMC campus in Gainesville and spoke about how NGHS has helped save thousands of lives over the years.
“This is why people like the commissioners of White and Dawson County are here today,” Gooch said. “They know how important healthcare is to raise a striving and a growing community…without a good healthcare system, economic development would not exist at the level we see today.”
The state senator quipped that if population growth trends continue, as has been the case in other areas of northeastern Georgia, it may not be surprising to see the Lumpkin campus continue its own growth and expansion, with proximate retail and residential developments
to pop up nearby over time.
“There are a few turning points in any community, and I believe this is one of those turning points,” Gooch said.
Hall County District 3 Commissioner-elect Greg Poole, a local contractor, called himself a “NGHS kid” who’s worked for the system for 20 years as a subcontractor.
“A strong North Georgia Medical Center is a strong north Georgia economy. Their leadership is phenomenal,” he said of NGHS. “This is going to be a tremendous asset for all of northeastern Georgia.”
Dawson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond also said the new hospital would be “wonderful for the economic development of the north side of Ga. 400” and likewise pointed to the buildout of businesses from Dawson all the way up to the new facility’s campus.
Thurmond mentioned the “greater variety of healthcare physicians” that Dawson County residents would also have available. He and BOC District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines both mentioned the existing and expected growth of ancillary NGHS-affiliated healthcare services in Dawson County.
Gaines added that considering the lengthy drives that local EMS crews can currently have with ambulances, “response times will improve” with the new hospital facility.