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Local hospital is growing up
Work begins on expansion at Northside
crane and hospital jd
Workers begin connecting lights and cables on a giant crane, which now towers over the top of Northside Hospital-Forsyth. - photo by Jim Dean
By the end of 2010, Northside Hospital-Forsyth’s surgical center will be four stories tall, possibly five.

Hospital spokesman Russ Davis said construction began this week on the first phase of the expansion, which will add two floors and 21 inpatient beds to the building, which is currently two stories tall.

But if all goes according to plan, Davis said, a fifth story would be added after that, along with an additional 22 medical/surgical beds “to support the inpatient growth and patient census demand.”

“The growth in the community continues to be amazing and therefore we need to do whatever we can to continue to meet the health care needs of the community,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re growing at a faster pace than the medical needs of the community.”

The first project will cost about $17 million and includes renovating about 6,000 square feet of space and adding more than 37,400 square feet to the surgical center.

Skip Putnam, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said the plans are a continuation of the hospital’s growth.

“There are days when it’s very crowded here and obviously as the county grows, there’s going to be more of a need for inpatient services,” he said. “We’re just concerned about staying ahead.”

The hospital has applied for a certificate of need from the state for the possible fifth story.

It could be November before the state Department of Community Health approves the certificate, required of health systems seeking to add new medical services.

The process is lengthy, but helps avoid duplication of expensive services and evenly distributes medical care statewide.

If a fifth story is approved, the $6.7 million project would add about 16,800 square feet to the center.

Davis said between 2001 and 2008, the hospital saw inpatient admissions increases of 172 percent.

In addition, data shows the senior citizen population of Forsyth and Dawson counties will increase by nearly 59 percent between 2009 and 2014.

To keep up with demand, Davis said the hospital expects to add about 260 full-time employees to its staff by the end of 2012.

With construction consuming the bulk of the 12 to 18 months, however, Putnam said there’s no staffing additions planned for the immediate future.

“But we always try to evaluate every six months where we are and what the need of our patient population is, so we’ll see,” he said.

“We’re just here to serve what the citizens of the county need and that’s just what we’re trying to do.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at