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Growing up: Emory Eastside planning big expansion of Snellville campus

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

SNELLVILLE -- Sometimes expansion isn't just about more space.

Officials at Emory Eastside, which will break ground on two of three planned projects Wednesday, hope new construction will help create a new environment for Snellville's main medical center.

"This hospital has been known in the past as a great community hospital that did a little bit of everything -- and we're growing up," said Emory Eastside COO Dustin Greene.

"We're graduating from being just a community hospital, and so we're developing certain service lines."

On Wednesday, the hospital will break ground on a new medical office building and an expansion of its emergency department. Still in the planning stages, a brand new patient care tower is in the works for coming years.

"We want to be what the community needs us to be, to meet the health care and illness care needs of the community," CEO Kim Ryan said. "Because that's what it's all about. Keeping the citizens healthy, and if they're ill and injured, to provide exceptional services to meet the needs of the community."

What the community needs, Ryan and Greene both say, is more care, quicker care and improved care.

What they want, and deserve, they say, is all that in one place without having to drive all over town.

"Patients in the past, you go see a doctor, wait and hour and a half and you just live with it," Greene said.

"It's not acceptable. And so what we're trying to do, is we're trying to figure out what's the biggest need for certain service lines, and how can we provide that service from start to finish without that patient ever having to leave the campus."

Details are being played tight to the vest, but will be released in the coming months, Greene said.

Whatever they are, Emory Eastside is aiming itself directly toward what Ryan called a "cultural transformation."

"A hospital exists to fulfill the medical needs of its community, and the community is growing," Ryan said. "The community wants care locally. So we're all about meeting that need."

The medical office

building

In the works is a third medical office building for Emory Eastside, a two-story, 40,000-square-foot home for physicians behind the hospital's current campus.

They'll break ground on the $3 million project, which will have the opportunity to expand, Wednesday.

"We're developing some unique, aggressive new services to our community that are going to be announced in the coming months or year-ish," Greene said. "It's more than just a building."

With both current medical office buildings at "100 percent capacity," Greene said, the need for more room for more physicians to practice is a no-brainer.

And, with Gwinnett continuing to grow every year, they're already preparing for any needed expansion in the future.

"It's being designed in a way that it can expand both horizontally and vertically," Greene said. "It could be up to 120,000 square feet long term."

The MOB, as Greene calls it, is slated to open sometime in the middle of next year.

Emergency department expansion

The emergency department at Emory Eastside has seen 60,000 patients a year in recent times -- add that to about 15 percent growth over the last year-plus, and the ER and accompanying units are "way above capacity," Greene said.

"Even with the current economic environment, it's still growing right now," Greene said. "Our wait times are looking much better right now, but our ER has got to grow."

And it will.

The current emergency department, near the main entrance of the hospital, has 31 beds. The departments sees around 600 ambulances a month and boasts around 60 employees.

Under the new plan, which breaks ground this month, it will go to 40 beds, with "some additional space for more beds." Also included in the plans will be a brand new, high-end CT scanner.

"We're going to grow capacity by about 10 percent," Greene said, "plus improve the flow dramatically with that."

The new tower

And then there's the big daddy.

Still a few years away, a new patient care tower is in the works for Emory Eastside.

"It will be some general inpatient beds, it will be some (intensive care unit) beds, it will probably have some more operating room construction, some more support space" for things like pharmacies, labs and radiology, Ryan said.

Details are sparse, but it is coming.

"We're in the beginning stages, where we're putting together a detailed plan for it," Ryan said. "Once that gets accepted by our parent company, we'll begin the architectural design. We've got at least a year of approval and design, then a couple years of buildout."

"It's not five years away though," Greene was quick to add.