FIRM PLANS HOSPITAL AS PART OF $800 MILLION PROPOSAL IN GEORGIA

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MARIETTA, GA. — Marietta-based WellStar Health Systems will break ground on a $100 million hospital in Hiram, Ga., next year, part of $800 million to be spent in the next 10 years on systems upgrades and facility expansions in Georgia. The proposal calls for $120 million worth of information technology improvements across the company’s hospital system, including a new data center, and a $14 million outpatient campus in Cobb County. The plan will be implemented in three phases.

“That’s not $800 million that we’re going to chunk out in one check,” says Gregory Simone, CEO of WellStar Health Systems.

The 100-bed hospital in Paulding County will be constructed to replace the WellStar Paulding Hospital in Dallas, Ga., which is adjacent to a fully occupied medical office building owned by the company. The global architecture firm HKS will construct the hospital using LEED Silver standards with an eye toward future expansion. WellStar is hoping to submit a deed request by the end of the year, which would set up a potential groundbreaking for December 2010. If everything proceeds as scheduled, Simone says, the company will open the hospital in April 2013.

“It’s a 10-year plan, so we’re looking at the growth needs of that community,” he says. “It’s already grown substantially in the last couple of years.” Hospital officials are projecting a 5 percent population increase in Paulding County during the next 5 years. “We really have to have the facilities in place when the need is there,” Simone says. “We can’t react to it and say, ‘We should have had a bigger hospital facility.’”

In a time when developers across the country are shying away from new construction projects, WellStar officials are confident this is the right time to move forward. After all, Simone says, the recession won’t last forever.

“It’s not like we’re going to spend the money now,” he says. “At this point, we think it’s perfectly in the realm of prudence to commit that kind of money over the right time period.”

– Jon Ross

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