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State weighs expansion at local hospital
Northside-Forsyth wants to add third story
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Forsyth County News

It could be up to four months before Northside Hospital gets the green light for further expansion and renovation of its Forsyth campus.

The Georgia Department of Community Health has until Feb. 18 to decide on a certificate of need for the nearly $17 million proposed project, which would add a third floor to the two-story surgery recovery unit.

"We built two floors, but we can actually take it up to 10," said Skip Putnam, Northside Hospital-Forsyth's chief executive officer. "But we're going to go up one floor at a time."

The 38,000-square-foot expansion would convert 21 observation beds into in-patient beds and add 20 observation beds and 20 extended recovery beds, as well as ancillary service and administrative space.

No new medical equipment would be purchased, though furniture and other additions are included in the cost.

The main part of the hospital would be renovated to expand the pharmacy by about 6,000 square feet.

Providing the certificate of need is approved by the state, Putnam anticipates an August 2010 completion date for the project.

"Hopefully before then," he said. "We always try to manage and make it so that nobody knows what [construction is] going on in the hospital and it doesn't bother the patients. We're constructing as fast as we can."

In an effort to avoid duplication of expensive services and evenly distribute medical care across Georgia, the certificate of need process allows state health planners to weigh whether there is a legitimate need for the proposed service.

If so, they then determine if the health system making the application is best suited to fill that need. Other medical facilities can challenge the application, thereby lengthening the process.

Over time, Putnam expects to add more beds. In the meantime, the local hospital is busy adding a cardiac catheterization lab and a awaiting approval for a mobile PET/CT scanner.

"We do have to learn how to control the growth and that's what we've been trying to do the last couple of years," he said. "We're going to continue trying to expand the hospital and providing services everyone needs. We'll just have to see where the next need is.

"We're always doing an assessment and trying to see where we can best serve the community."