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Hospital ER visits up 6.7% in 2011
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Emergency room visits continued to mount in 2011, as Newton Medical Center saw 3,000, or 6.7 percent, more visits than in 2010.

Newton Medical had 46,246 emergency room visits in 2011, Chief Financial Officer Troy Brooks said at the hospital board's Jan. 10 meeting.

While the emergency room reached its official capacity years ago, hospital CEO Jim Weadick said officials continue to treat more patients every year.

Newton County voters approved contributing $4 million to an emergency room expansion in the 2011 SPLOST; however, each project gets money on a pro-rata share so a few years must pass before enough money will be collected to begin work on the expansion.

Hospital officials had planned a $5.4 million expansion of the emergency room in 2008, but the project was delayed in December of that year because a favorable loan could not be found during the economic downturn, according to a previous article in The News. Because the SPLOST passed, the hospital will only be on the hook for around $1.4 million.

The 2008 plans called for the west wall of the emergency room to be moved out 21 feet to increase the total number of treatment rooms from 16 to 28.

Weadick said previously that officials will consider the emergency room expansion once the birth care center renovation is completed around mid-2012.

The birth care center renovation has two phases remaining, including reworking the entryway off Tate Street, will be temporarily closed during construction, and renovating the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Weadick told the board Jan. 10 that the area looks very attractive now and members should be pleased with the final results.

Newton Medical has not historically had a good reputation when it comes to childbirths, according to some members of the community, but hospital officials believe that was mainly based on the aesthetics of the center, which will now be significantly improved.

Another change to the hospital will be the addition of a third, completely digitized, MRI. The new MRI is expected to be added soon, and it will have to be lifted into the nuclear medicine department through a roof hatch because it is too large to fit through the hospital's hallways.

The closed MRI will be slightly larger than a normal MRI machine, but board members said it wouldn't help anyone with claustrophobia. The price of the MRI was not given at the board meeting.

Dr. Mark Hanson said officials are continuing to explore ways to bring renal dialysis and oncology services to Newton Medical. Officials are also trying to improve wireless service in the hospital.

The physical buildings that comprise Newton Medical Center are operated by Newton Health Systems, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. The hospital and all of its assets are owned by the Newton County Hospital Authority, which was originally formed in 1954. The authority leases the assets to Newton Health Systems. The ongoing mission of both organizations is to meet the health care needs of Newton County.