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New hospital reaches mark in construction

DULUTH - The skeleton of a colossal building slowly inching toward becoming Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth was the backdrop of the Gwinnett Hospital System's "Topping Out" party Thursday, which celebrated the completion of the top floor of the new five-story building.

Now only steel beams, the completed building will boast 175,476 square feet of high-tech innovation and design. The hospital will host 81 beds in private rooms, an eight-bed short-stay unit and center for orthopedics, the latest surgical-care equipment housed in large, state-of-the-art operating rooms and fully integrated digital technology.

"This will be the most technically advanced hospital on this side of north Atlanta," said Lea Bay, vice president of system operations, who will serve as administrator of the new hospital.

The hospital is greatly needed, officials said, since the Duluth-area population has outgrown the Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital, which has been providing health care services to the area for more than 60 years.

"At Joan Glancy we only have seven emergency rooms and nine beds," said Dr. Carlton Buchanan Jr. of Emergency Services. "When we expand to the Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth, we'll have 24 rooms and an increase in patient beds that will allow us to care for more people in this area."

Joan Glancy has less than 500 beds, which offers the smallest hospital bed space in Gwinnett County for the region's population.

The new health care center will expand the bed capacity, said Bill Russell, a member of the hospital system's board of directors.

At the close of the official ceremony, guests were invited to sign the last high beam scheduled to be placed upon the hospital structure Friday by Griffin Construction Co., a long-standing tradition.

The new hospital is scheduled to open in summer 2006.