Phoebe breaks ground for digestive disease center

Dr. Vithal Kusuma, gastroenterologist, Albany Gastroenterology, gives remarks during Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Digestive Diseases Center groundbreaking at Meredyth Place Tuesday afternoon.

ALBANY, Ga. — Phoebe Putney Health System officially broke ground Tuesday evening on the Meredyth Gastrointestinal and Endoscopy Center in Northwest Albany.

While the humid, hot weather impacted comfort at the outdoor event, there was still excitement in anticipation of the facility.

“The issue here comes to mind that a vision with no plan is just a pipe dream,” Chuck Lingle, a member of the Albany-Dougherty Hospital Authority and a former county commissioner, said at the ceremony. “These folks thought it through more than that.

“We feel we’ve met a lot of our goals, and with the ones we have met, we’ve had to raise the bar. We are going to use this building as a rung in the ladder to reach new heights.”

Site preparation work on the $30 million, two-phase expansion of medical facilities off Meredyth Drive began in June as part of an attempt on Phoebe’s part to expand its gastroenterology capabilities.

Officials have said the center will make it easier to recruit good gastroenterologists while providing an added convenience to one area of the region that is growing.

Dr. Vithal Kusuma, a physician with Albany Gastroenterology, is excited that a facility solely devoted to his specialty is now becoming a reality in Albany.

“When I came to Albany, there was no gastroenterology here,” he recalled. “With progress, (the specialty) has gotten bigger and better.
“This will be one of the best (facilities) in country.”

The money to construct the 85,000-square-foot multipurpose, outpatient facility is coming from “hospital surplus funding” and Phoebe won’t need to finance the project through bonds or other forms of debt, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick said at a June news conference.

The first phase of the project started June 6, which is largely consisting of site clearing and the construction of a parking lot in an area just north of the former Ordinary Coyote restaurant. Work is also being done to redesign two drainage ditches so that they can be converted into new roadways.

The second phase will be the erection of the main building, which will be adjacent to the current medical complex and sit directly across a courtyard from the rear of the Veranda.

About 400 construction-related jobs and the recruitment of gastroenterologists will result from this project, Phoebe officials said.

The architectural firm developing plans for the facility is PageSoutherlandPage, and Robins & Morton is the general contractor.

Overseeing the construction project will be KLMK Group. Occupancy of the center is expected to take place in fall 2012.

Some of the other officials present at the groundbreaking hailed the project as a worthwhile investment to a city that is considered to be the health care center of Southwest Georgia.

“This is a long time coming,” said Dougherty County Commission Chair Jeff Sinyard. “Whether you live or visit here, people are amazed (at the health care resources) available here.

“This is an awesome engine of economic drive, and an awesome day for Albany and Southwest Georgia.”