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CEO Wernick: Phoebe continues to grow

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- As it continues to expand its influence, the overall prognosis for Phoebe Putney Health System is a positive one.

That is the message the Albany Rotary Club received from CEO Joel Wernick at Phoebe Northwest Thursday.

When accounting for all the members of the individual boards within Phoebe's influence, there are currently 70 community board members overseeing the system. The entities include Phoebe Putney Health System, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Phoebe Worth Medical Center, the Phoebe Foundation and Phoebe Physician Group.

"They put in many hours and take their job very seriously," Wernick said. "They are aggressive in volunteering themselves."

In 1990, the main hospital in Albany was the only Phoebe facility in existence. Now, the system's influence is felt thought Southwest Georgia.

"The system has blossomed to touch 35 counties," Wernick said.

In a breakdown of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's patient base by county, 45 percent comes from Dougherty. Nine percent comes from Lee, 5 percent from Mitchell, 5 percent from Terrell and 7 percent from Worth. The remainder comes from other counties in the area.

"We have added over the years and anticipate continuing to add," Wernick said. "The list of reasons for people having to leave the area has shrunk and shrunk."

Among the biggest projects in the works for Phoebe is its venture in Americus: the Phoebe Sumter Medical Center complex. Construction is currently under way for the three medical buildings that will accompany the 76-bed hospital. The entire complex is set to be complete by the end of 2011.

In terms of monetary resources, roughly $100 million has been put toward construction projects in recent months. Some of the upcoming expenses for the system include $25 million for its Meredyth Place facility, $30 million for developments at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and $125 million for the hospital in Americus.

Wernick also updated the civic club on technological advancements at the hospital, namely the daVinci Surgical System -- a robotics platform designed to enable surgical procedures crossing the urology, gynecology, cardiac and general surgery specialties. The equipment has been installed on Phoebe's seventh floor, and hospital officials are currently in the process of training staff.

"(Younger doctors) are being trained on this," he said. "It will be essential for recruiting new physicians."

The hospital's board of directors approved the purchase of the $1.7 million system in April. It should be in full use within a few months, Wernick said.

The CEO also said that Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital sees roughly 650 trauma cases in a year, in comparison to an average of 1,000 trauma cases dealt with by a Level 1 trauma center.

By those numbers, Wernick explained that Phoebe could be considered a trauma care center.

"Phoebe is indeed a trauma care center," he said. "There is no quote, end-quote trauma network. There is not something to join other than a designation by the state."

At this time, there is no permanent funding in place for a trauma system in Georgia.

Wernick also addressed rumors that Phoebe is looking to partner with Crisp Regional Hospital by stating, "There has been some dancing, but nobody is engaged."

In addition to bigger facilities, the system has rural clinics functioning in Pelham, Camilla, Lee County, Sylvester and Ashburn.

The main hospital has a payroll of $180 million with more than 3,500 part- and full-time employees.