Enthusiasm growing from government officials, public for Lee County Medical Center

Business After Hours event in Leesburg offers more information on Lee medical center

written by Jennifer Parks
Albany Herald
May 26, 2017

A public hearing hosted by the Lee County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday evening gave the public direct contact with officials involved in the development of Lee County Medical Center and provided an opportunity to offer input on the project.

The hearing, conducted at a Business After Hours event, took place a week after a Certificate of Need was filed on the anticipated full-service, acute-care hospital that is expected to be built on Grand Island Drive.

“All we want is for our community to be a better place,” Lee County Commissioner Rick Muggridge said. “I’m not a lawyer, but we have every reason to believe we will get the CON.”

The event included a rendering of what the hospital might look like, as well as the current floor plan for the ground floor of the two-story structure planned to measure 125,000 square feet.

Freese Johnson LLC and Pannenbier LLC of Atlanta, and Health Care Facilities Partners LLC of Franklin, Tenn., are among the principles helping to put together plans for the hospital and bring it to life. Once complete, the 60-bed facility is expected to create 350 jobs.

Officials in Lee County have spoken highly of the overwhelming support they have received.

“Providing a great alternative to health care in this community, in my opinion, is the greatest thing that has happened to this community in a long time,” Lee County Commission Vice Chairman Billy Mathis said. “We know the community is excited about it. We are excited about it.”

Mathis addressed concerns that there has been limited information released on the hospital by saying it is the intention of the county to be as transparent as possible.

“It is our opinion in Lee County that we don’t own the information,” he said. “We are just stewards of it.”

Health Care Facilities Partners is listed on the hospital’s CON as the parent organization of LCMC OPCO LLC, the firm that will be operating the hospital.

Eddie Alexander, president and CEO of LCMC OPCO, said the 125,000-square-foot facility will include 50 medical and surgical beds and 10 intensive care unit beds. There will be four operating rooms, two procedure rooms and eight rooms in the emergency center.

The hospital is expected to offer indigent care, a detail that has been of particular interest since plans to develop the facility were announced last year.

“We will be able to treat every patient that walks through the door,” Alexander said. “It will be a beautiful facility, designed with the patient in mind.”

Total uncompensated care is projected to be $6 million in the first year, and $12 million in the second year, officials in Lee County said.

Alexander said that those working out of the facility, specifically physicians, will be included in every detail related to patient care at the hospital.

“We will include them every step of the way,” he said.

The Lee County Development Authority will be the owner the hospital and is issuing bonds to finance the $130 million facility. LCMC OPCO will lease it from the Authority.

“In no way will it be a negative for the taxpayers,” Mathis said.

Another point of high interest on Thursday was the competition the new hospital is expected to provide for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. Both Muggridge and Mathis said the competition, meant to be of no offense to Phoebe, ought to bring about economic development as well as give both hospitals an incentive to offer the highest quality of care.

“I think it means health care costs will go down due to competition,” Muggridge said. “I hope and pray that (will be key) in turning Southwest Georgia around. Competition is good. Competition makes us better.”

An advisory board and a board of directors will help handle the business of the Lee hospital, both of which are to include physician representation, Alexander said.

The CON review process is expected to take 120 days, placing the timeline for the decision regarding the certificate in mid- to late-September. Officials said the hospital is expected to take 14 months to build, followed by a licensure process that will take two months.

Training opportunities will be available for medical students, and collaborations will be entered into with health care practices that already include Lee County Optical, Lee County Medical Arts Center, Hughston Clinic and Lee County Health & Rehabilitation.

Officials also said the environment around the Grand Island site, such as wildlife and storm drainage, are being considered during the design phase of the site.

Officials are directing the public to www.abetterleecounty.com for more information on the hospital. A copy of the CON filed with the Georgia Department of Community Health is linked to the site.