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Newton Medical Center expands programs
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While Newton Medical Center officials plan for a future $5 million expansion of the emergency room, several other changes are underway at the hospital, including the renovation of the birth care center.

Newton Medical CEO Jim Weadick spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Covington Thursday and provided updates on several hospital projects, including the birth care center, addition of a newborn nursery and a new family practice doctor.

Emergency room expansion

Newton County voters approved the 2011 SPLOST earlier this year, which included $4 million for an emergency room expansion.

Hospital officials had originally considered a $5 million expansion of their emergency room in 2008 but decided the economic climate made it a poor time to borrow $5 million, so it turned to the SPLOST for help. Voters obliged, and now the hospital will only have to borrow $1 million.

Weadick said officials will dust off drawings they had prepared in 2008 to see if the drawings could still be used. Those plans called for the west wall to be moved out 21 feet to increase the total of treatment rooms from 16 to 28.

Officials will wait for the birth care center renovation to be completed before they review emergency room plans around mid-2012.

Birth care center renovation

The multi-million dollar project will renovate eight labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, eight postpartum rooms and three observation beds.

Newton Medical doctors currently deliver about 815 babies a year, but after the changes, the hospital hopes to build up to a delivery level of more than 1,000 babies.

The center has four full-time OB-GYN physicians and three physicians who are in the birth care center on a partial basis.

NICU added

Weadick said the hospital has expanded to a Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and receives its medical direction from a five-physician group of neonatologists who are with Gwinnett Neonatology.

"Some patients may not have had regular prenatal care or babies may be low in birth weight or there may be some other clinical reason the physician believes it would be in the infant's best interest to be placed in the NICU," Weadick said in a follow-up email.

Doctor additions and subtractions

Donna Groover joined the Newton Medical family this summer. She has been in family practice medicine for 14 years and is a graduate of Mercer Medical School.

Doug Harbin, an OB-GYN, started Aug. 1 and is located in the Social Security Administration building on the Covington ByPass Road.

On the other hand, the hospital lost an orthopedic surgeon who had been in the area for 20 years.

New programs under consideration

The hospital is considering offering renal dialysis for inpatients. Weadick said the service would be offered to patients with other conditions who also needed dialysis, such as a patient with pneumonia or one having hip surgery. The procedure would not be offered for outpatients because dialysis is very expensive and the hospital is not reimbursed for the costs through Medicare; 90 percent of the hospital's patients have Medicare, Weadick said.

Newton Medical is also hoping to start hematology and oncology care in the first quarter of 2012 as the hospital attempts to offer complete coverage in Covington.