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Hospital system kicks off construction of tower

melissa.wilson@gwinettdailypost.com

LAWRENCEVILLE - Members of the Gwinnett Hospital System, standing on a stage beneath a towering crane, christened a large piece of equipment that will be an integral tool in the expansion of the Gwinnett Medical Center.

Tuesday's "Crane Christening" was the ceremonial start to the expansion of the Lawrenceville medical center, which will add a 155-bed, five-story tower to the existing hospital, plus a number of renovations and technological upgrades.

The expansion is part of the hospital's Project Path (Planning, Advancing and Transforming health care), an initiative planning the medical center's next five years.

"Gwinnett Medical Center has an incredible vision for the future and that vision will transform health care," said hospital CEO and President Phil Wolfe of the changes to come.

The patient tower that currently houses 175 beds was constructed in 1984, and Wolfe and others with the hospital said it's time for a change and the ability to serve the growing county's population.

"Ensuring the quality of a growing population is a must," said Dr. Miles Mason, president of the Gwinnett Hospital System medical staff. "We've had over 100 percent occupancy in the past 18 months. We've had too few beds, but relief is in sight."

Mobilization has already begun for the construction of the 175,000-square-foot vertical tower that will top the medical center's existing Support Services building.

Atlanta-based R.J. Griffin and Co. will construct the new tower that will house a surgical and surgical intensive care unit, progressive care, intensive care, neuroscience, spine center, orthopedics and a joint replacement center.

Among the expansion to and remodeling of the existing building are renovations to the main entrance and lobby, construction of a new chapel, escalators and an enlarged dining area in the Support Services building plus a Starbucks coffee shop.

Outdoor seating and a healing garden complete the new construction. Renovations to the patient registration, cardiac rehabilitation, dialysis and gift shop areas are also planned.

Chairman of the hospital Board of Directors Wayne Sikes said the $61 million expansion is being funded through both borrowing and earnings as well as community capital investment.

Sikes said the hospital will receive $25 million from the county commissioners for the expansion.

"It goes straight to the bottom line," Sikes said of the funds. "But even more, it signifies that our government supports this decision and our vision. And we're really greatful."

Wolfe said the expansion will allow those at the hospital to fully meet the needs of Gwinnett County.

"I think its a big event and a great project and a way to benefit the community," said Wolfe. "It's just a very exciting project and necessary for the future."

The hospital will remain fully functional during the construction and will continue to serve the community.

Hospital authorities expect the expansion to be finished by 2009.

"Health care and quality will be synonymous with Gwinnett Medical Center," Sikes said.