New hospital in Duluth is health highlight of 2005

LAWRENCEVILLE - Destitution caused by natural disasters, the rise of a new hospital and the spirit of volunteerism are just a few of the things Gwinnettians have seen in 2005. Listed below are snapshots of events that through the past year have touched the lives of Gwinnett residents.

1) Duluth gets

high-tech hospital

The largest hospital in the county is expanding its system into Duluth, where a new acute care hospital is under construction. With overflowing emergency rooms, the nonprofit community hospital system wanted to add more room to its existing building in Lawrenceville, but will instead have a new facility. Gwinnett Medical Center - Duluth is slated to open next August and will offer patients 175,000 square feet of treatment space and 21 more beds than Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital, which currently serves the Duluth area.

2) Philadelphia Osteopathic College in Gwinnett

Gwinnett welcomed the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Suwanee off Old Peachtree Road.

The school is the only one of its kind in the Southeast and one of about 20 nationwide to offer a doctorate of osteopathic medicine. College officials say they chose Gwinnett County as the newest breeding ground for these doctors because of the huge demand for physicians in Georgia.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, osteopathic medicine is different from the traditional approach because it focuses on treating the whole person rather than the specific illness. Doctors focus on preventative healthcare and are also trained in makeup of the musculoskeletal system, so they learn about how one part of the body can affect another.

More than 1,750 people applied to attend the college in Gwinnett. Of the 85 students accepted, 88 percent are from Georgia or a Southern state.

3) Hurricane affects more than New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, leaving more than 1,300 dead and thousands of evacuees still displaced months later. In the chaotic days and weeks following the storm, homeless residents were housed in squalid conditions at the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome before being evacuated to Atlanta and other nearby cities. Gwinnett officials reacted quickly to the influx of new residents. The American Red Cross moved its administrative efforts to Lawrenceville, Gwinnett businesses hosted job fairs and residents gave clothing, blankets and in some cases their own homes to those in need.

4) Avian flu

After avian flu made its way from China to Europe, nations around the world began developing pandemic response strategies to prevent a local outbreak. Gwinnett health officials, however, had been planning for an outbreak since 2003. Gwinnett Medical Center and the East Metro Health District avian influenza plan emphasized recognizing early signs flu-like symptoms so patients could be properly secured and isolated to avoid contamination. On a state wide level, Georgia farmers urged consumers to continue to eat chicken, especially with the holidays on the horizon. No cases of the Avian flu have occurred in the United States, but it is still a concern.

5) Right to life or death debate

The plight of brain-dead 41-year-old Terri Schiavo captivated America early this year, as her family's struggle to decide her fate played out in the media, the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and on the floor of Congress. Shiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when a chemical imbalance brought on by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating for a few minutes. She could breathe on her own, but had relied on the feeding and hydration tube to keep her alive. After weeks of debate and last-minute attempts at legislation proved unsuccessful, Shiavo's tube was removed. Thirteen days after her feeding tube was removed she died March 31, in accordance with what her husband said were Shiavo's wishes.

6) Lauded chest pain center located in Gwinnett

Lawrenceville became home to the first hospital in the Atlanta metro area and the second in Georgia to earn the designation of an accredited chest pain center. The new status, given to Gwinnett Medical Center by the Society of Chest Pain Centers, is expected to assist doctors with treatment of the early stages of heart attack. The rise of chest pain centers resulted in the need to establish standards designed to improve the consistency and quality of care provided to patients. The Chest Pain Center at Gwinnett Medical Center met and exceeded a wide set of stringent criteria and completed on-site valuations by a review team from the Society of Chest Pain Centers.

7) Local WIC center

The first free-standing speciality clinic for women, infants and children (WIC) in Georgia will open its doors in Lilburn late February. Now number one in the state for WIC participation, the East Metro Health District has set a new record and has provided more than 3,000 participants with WIC services. The new clinic will address the special nutritional needs of low-income, pregnant, postpartum and breast-feeding women, infants and children up to age 5.

8) Abortion waiting

period approved

Women in Georgia must now wait 24 hours and be told medical risks before having an abortion. Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Woman's Right to Know Act, on the last day for him to either sign or veto bills passed by the General Assembly this year. One of the bill's provisions requires that women seeking abortions be informed either in person or over the telephone of the medical risks involved in the procedure and with carrying the unborn child to full term. They are also told of the legal obligations of the father, should they keep the child. The bill also requires that parents or legal guardians be notified when a minor seeks an abortion.

9) Spirit of

volunteerism lives on

In October, Gwinnettians painted, landscaped and spent time with seniors in an effort to give back to their community. Over 1,000 volunteers banded together for Gwinnett Great Days of Service, the largest volunteer initiative in the county, and successfully completed 170 service projects in two days. Despite fears of falling short of donations following heavy giving to Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Great Days of Service officials reached all their service goals and are planning for next year's event.

10) Acute care

center addition

Emory Eastide now has a new acute care tower and women's center with the addition of 55,000 square feet. The $26.7 million, 20-month project to expand the center based in Snellville now offers patients an additional 25 percent of square footage. The center includes a neonatal intensive care nursery, 12 labor/delivery/

recovery rooms and postpartum, progressive care and intensive care units.