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Phoebe still planning to move forward with trauma center

ALBANY, Ga. -- Even though the trauma care amendment did not pass during Tuesday's election, officials with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital say they are still moving toward establishing itself as a designated Level 2 trauma center.

"It won't change anything we are currently planning; we will continue down the path of becoming a Level 2 (trauma center)," said Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs at Phoebe.

The next step for Phoebe is to spend a year collecting and evaluating data before sending an application to the state. After the application is submitted, the Georgia Department of Community Health will do site visits in order to determine if the hospital is fit to become a trauma center before the designation becomes official.

"They (the DCH) use the American College of Surgeons guidelines," said Patten.

Patten added the hospital is spending $2 million a year to provide surgeons in various specialties in order to maintain trauma care services.

Amendment 2, if passed, would have generated $80 million a year through a $10 tax to annual car registrations for the purpose of rebuilding and expanding Georgia's trauma care network.

"Nothing will change relative to access to care," Patten said at the hospital's board meeting Wednesday. "What is not going to happen is advanced funding at a state level. There are resource commitments, and it's harder for hospitals to step up to that level.

"In this political and economic climate, everyone is in favor of trauma -- but nobody wanted to pay $10. The services that have been available will (continue to) be available; there just won't be a coordinated network of care."

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Amendment 2 failed by a vote of 1,339,062 to 1,204,567. In terms of percentages, that comes to 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent.

An update was also given at the board meeting regarding the partnership between Phoebe and Dorminy Medical Center that was announced in September.

The parties have now migrated into a management contract, allowing Phoebe to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Fitzgerald hospital. Officials are now looking at developing a lease document they hope will be approved after the new year.

"By April or May we will be in a lease position," said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick. "We have some wide-open arms in the system.

"We have the pieces in place for them (Dorminy) to not only be stable, but to thrive."

Construction on the Phoebe Sumter Medical Center complex in Americus is still ongoing, with the three medical buildings expected to be complete early next year -- and the hospital itself to be complete in December 2011.

"We are very, very close to moving into buildings," said Wernick. "Things in Americus are pretty much on track."

A topping-out ceremony for the hospital is planned for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the construction site.