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Adding on, up
Northside gets OK to expand
Hospital Expansion 2 es
Nurse Amber Buchanan shows one of the patient rooms Tuesday afternoon on the fifth floor of the main building at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. - photo by Emily Saunders
Business is looking up at Northside Hospital-Forsyth and with recent approval from the state’s community health department, so is the building.

The department approved the hospital’s $17 million request to expand upward, adding a one-story facility that will house a 20-bed observation unit, 20-bed extended recovery unit, ancillary services and administrative space.

The addition would also expand the hospital’s pharmacy and convert 21 inpatient beds to observation beds.

In total, the project includes more than 37,400 square feet of new construction and nearly 6,000 square feet of renovations.

Russ Davis, hospital spokesman, said the changes will be in compliance with the department’s model of having 133 inpatient beds to meet the projected demand for 2013.

“We’re not experiencing much decline in patient volume and revenue at Forsyth,” he said. “We’re doing quite well. Forsyth continues to grow and the hospital continues to grow along with the community.”

The expansion will go atop the surgical section of the hospital, which faces Ga. 400. Davis said the project is expected to be complete by August 2010.

“We are looking forward to increasing our capacity to care for the growing medical needs of our community,” said Skip Putnam, hospital chief executive officer. “The hospital continues to add services to its already comprehensive offerings. Patient utilization continues to increase as our citizens are seeking high-quality healthcare closer to home.”

Hospital data show inpatient admissions have increased by 148 percent from 2001 to 2007.

The county’s population is expected to grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2013, with the population of residents 65 and older estimated to increase more than 56 percent during the same time period.

Though it showed a need for the addition, the hospital still had to go through the certificate of need process, a requirement for health systems seeking to add new medical services.

The process is lengthy and application fees add to the cost. Ultimately, however, it helps avoid duplication of expensive services and evenly distributes medical care across Georgia.

Davis said for the hospital’s expansion, the .001 percent application fee was nearly $17,000. If the request was denied, the hospital would have needed to repay the fee to reapply.

The hospital received certificates of need last year for two other projects, both of which are nearly complete.

By the end of March, a cardiac catheterization service will be added to the growing cardiology program.

With the addition of the catheterization equipment, the hospital will be able to fully detect all heart-related issues.

In April, the hospital will have a mobile PET/CT scanner for diagnosing and determining the best course of treatment for cancer patients.

The hospital, a nonprofit organization, spends a portion of its revenue for expansion.

While other Georgia hospitals have struggled to handle more patients without insurance, Northside has not experienced much of a decline in patient volume or revenue.

“If it has changed, it’s fairly insignificant,” Davis said. “Northside Hospital-Forsyth just continues to grow by leaps and bounds, so we’re in good financial shape to continue to expand.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at