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Forrest General Hospital sees significant expansion

Hattiesburg — Two construction projects, one on-going and one soon to start, at Forrest General Hospital (FGH), will provide a $26.5-million expansion and renovation of the hospital’s Women’s Services.

The hospital and the Hattiesburg Clinic (HC) recently announced plans for an $8.5-million comprehensive outpatient women’s services facility that will feature space for 12 OB/GYN physicians, digital diagnostic mammography, ultrasound, bone densitometer services and lactation services, plus a medical spa for chemical peels, massages and acupuncture.

In April 2004, Forrest General announced plans to renovate existing space and construct new areas for its in-hospital Women’s Services, such as delivery and surgery. Among other changes, the $18-million project will provide a new entrance into Women’s Services from the parking garage. Construction is expected to be completed in the early part of 2005.

“The spa aspect is what’s new,” according to John Flock, Forrest General vice president. “We were looking to expand our services for women, so we went out and held focus groups in the community.”

The focus groups in the hospital’s 17-county area revealed that women wanted not only the usual medical services but the kind of services, such as massages, offered in spas. A survey of doctors indicated that their patients had talked of wanting similar facilities in a center for women.

“Public relations followed up,” Flock said. “They contacted hospitals and checked on the Internet, to see if other hospitals had this kind of medical spa. Some in other states did, but not around here. There’s nothing like our medical spa in south Mississippi hospitals.”

Hattiesburg Clinic became involved, “because we wanted to move fast.”

HC will actually own the new building, on land leased from the hospital. The hospital will lease back part of the building for use by its Wellness Center for an auditorium in which to hold community healthcare programs.

The new building, a free-standing structure on South 28th Avenue, across from the hospital, has been designed by Marshall Erdman & Associates. It will be built on a three-acre site owned by the hospital and connected to the hospital by an above-the-street walkway. There will also be a ground level entrance.

“There are five buildings that have to be demolished before construction can begin,” Flock said. “This includes three privately-owned businesses. They were to be out by February 1 but we’ve just extended the time until March 1.”

The hospital’s human resources department, housed in two of the buildings, is being relocated to trailers on the hospital campus. Flock said that demolition should begin during the first two weeks of April.

“This project is extremely exciting based on the feedback we received in our planning efforts with the community,” according to Bill Oliver, FGH president. “To have this type of facility with the scope of services to be offered will be very unique and should be a model for other communities to follow. This is one example of what our Spirit of Women program can do to help all the women of South Mississippi.”

“We’ve responded to women’s requests to provide services for every stage of life in one convenient location,” according to Louis Benton, an OB/GYN at Hattiesburg Clinic.

Later, additional women’s wellness services, not yet determined but including meeting facilities, education services and materials, will be added.

“This is not another medical office but a one-stop shopping concept for women’s healthcare,” Thornton said. “Forrest General and Hattiesburg Clinic have teamed together to offer this center as a means to enhance total wellness among women.”

Hattiesburg Clinic is a physician-owned group practice with more than 180 physicians and 1,100 employees. The state’s largest multi-speciality clinic, its doctors represent almost every medical speciality.

Forrest General Hospital has 537 beds, 3,100 employees and more than 300 doctors.

The new outpatient facility for women will mean the addition of some 20 jobs.

The $18-million renovation and expansion announced last April will feature a new entrance into Women’s Services directly from the fourth floor of the parking garage and will include a covered drop-off area.

Women arriving for surgery or to deliver a baby will be admitted to the hospital from the parking garage without having to visit the first floor business office.

“Our research with the consumers of healthcare in South Mississippi helped us develop this planned project over the last couple of years,” Oliver said. “We feel confident this will improve accessibility to our comprehensive services for the women of south Mississippi.”

Flock indicated that each area will be “totally gutted” before being rebuilt. These areas include the 6,000-square-foot, six bassinet neonatal intensive care unit, the 15-bassinet intermediate care nursery and the 19,000-square-foot, 12-bed labor and delivery unit.

“The neonatal intensive care unit is like a ward now, with six bassinets in one big room,” Flock said. “When construction is completed, there will be six private rooms, each with a bassinet. There will be no noise and families can visit and stay.”

The renovation will also relocate the 25-bed postpartum unit, nine-bed women’s unit for patients recovering from gynecological surgery and the 35-bed well-baby nursery, a total of 35,000 square feet, from their present areas to the new Critical Care Tower.

The Tower opened an open-heart surgery recovery unit and parts of emergency services in April 2004.
In 1986, enlarged and renovated areas for labor, delivery and a nursery were completed. In 1987, the hospital’s new labor and delivery unit opened. Each month, some 250 babies are born at Forrest General.

The multi-level parking garage was completed in 1996. The garage provides entry to the hospital at the lower, middle and upper areas.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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