ALBANY — The staff at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has given many tours of the hospital’s $5.3 million Simulation Center since the state-of-the-art training center was completed. But the visitor who got the grand tour Monday was a special guest in that he has the capacity to help the hospital secure more funding for the work it does.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock toured the Phoebe Simulation Center and offered comments on the importance of health care to the state and nation after being “Wowed” by the training center.

“You folks at this hospital ought to be proud of the work you’re doing; it’s first rate, particularly in the area of training the next generation of health care workers,” Warnock said. “As many of you know, one of my primary focuses is health care. I’ve been arrested — twice — for advocating for Medicaid expansion, once at our state Capitol and once at our nation’s Capitol.

“I can promise you, I will continue to work hard for health care in Georgia.”

The Democratic senator pointed to his and fellow freshman Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff’s work in helping to secure an additional 5% in Medicaid funding for the state that he said would help provide health care for an additional 450,000 Georgians and grow the state’s budget by $710 million.

“That’s why I’m here, on the ground, to see first-hand what a hospital does,” Warnock said. “We have to stop subsidizing — training the next generation of health care workers and having them go to work in other states — subsidizing health care for other states.

“I am honored to be here in Albany; I’ve paid attention to what’s been going on here, especially during the height of the pandemic. It was striking. That’s why I worked hard on passage of the American Rescue Plan. It’s going to make a difference in Georgia.”

State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, State Rep. CaMia Hopson and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas were among the guests who joined Warnock for the tour.

“It’s extremely important to have an individual that holds a special seat of power in Washington, D.C., to visit our community, to see the needs and challenges we face in our region,” Sims said. “It’s also important for him to see the things we’ve done right.”

Added Cohilas: “Any time someone comes down to our community from Washington and we can show him our assets as well as our needs, it adds timbre to what we’ve always said about putting skin in the game.”

Phoebe CEO Joe Austin said it’s important for persons in Warnock’s position to get a first-hand look at valuable assets like the Phoebe Simulation Center.

“Take a moment ago when we were talking with the Senator about the nursing shortage,” Austin said. “It’s important that people in his position understand these things, and how important education is right now. He is a person who has an impact on the budgets that supply funding for such important programs.”

After meeting Warnock in the entranceway to Phoebe’s Tower I, Phoebe Health System President/CEO Scott Steiner thanked the senator for “taking time out of your schedule to visit us.”

“This is not time out of my schedule,” Warnock said. “This is me doing my work.”

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