Photo: Anthony Stalcup Eastside Medical Center is slated to open it new tower in January of 2013.
SNELLVILLE -- Eastside Medical Center is almost done building. For now. Kind of.
With the quickly approaching opening of its new patient tower, Snellville's hometown hospital is nearing the conclusion of roughly three years and $75 million worth of various expansion projects. When the 92,000-square-foot, 48-bed tower officially opens to patients in January, it will be the beginning of the end of a growing up process.
"Certainly it's been a dramatic change," Eastside CEO Kim Ryan said. "We've been doing several things at the same time."
Since Ryan's arrival half a decade ago, and more specifically over the last three years or so, Eastside has made a long string of advancements and improvements, including: the $12-million expansion and renovation of its emergency department; a brand new, $3-million medical office building, the hospital's third; and the expansion of cardiac services, including the implementation of angioplasty and stenting.
The additional tower, with a price tag of about $58 million, will have been built in only a year. It will bring with it 48 "adjustable acuity" patient beds and the added capacity necessary to turn Eastside's nine current operating rooms into 10 much more spacious, better equipped ORs.
Add in that the hospital dropped its "Emory" moniker along the way -- after parent company Hospital Corporation of America assumed full ownership last year -- and its campus is hardly recognizable.
"It's coming together nicely," Drew Tyrer, Eastside's associate chief operating officer, said during a recent tour of the new facilities.
The three-story patient tower is scheduled to open to the public, and primarily surgical patients, in mid-January. The first floor will consist of the hospital's new "north lobby" and several of the aforementioned operating rooms.
The second and third floors will be used for patients rooms, which will be coordinated to help nurses specialize in particular types of care, Ryan said. The "adjustable acuity" concept the rooms will be adopting means that patients may be able to stay in the same room throughout their stay, even if they progress from critical to stable condition (or vice versa).
For now, the majority of the rooms will be for surgical intensive care and surgical progressive care, Tyrer said.
It's all quite necessary, officials believe. In 1994, Eastside averaged about 20,000 emergency room visits per year -- by the end of this year, Ryan estimated the hospital will have seen about 62,000 ER patients.
Overall admissions are increasing by similar leaps and bounds, she said.
"We desperately needed the room," Ryan said, adding that, "Every time we've added capacity, we've filled it up."
Even when the tower opens, Eastside won't quite be done.
The structure will be "turned over" to the hospital later this month, and crews will begin the renovation necessary to relocate and expand operating suites. That process will likely take about 10 months.
The tower itself is built three stories high, but the hospital has received the go-ahead from the state to build up to six floors -- that will definitely be happening at some point, Tyrer said, and probably sooner rather than later.
"Even though we're not using them to their fullest now," he said, "it's encouraging to know that we can down the road ... We know we will need it, because of what our population demographics are demonstrating. I think it's just a matter of being prudent and determining when the time is right to expand."