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GC takes lead in Central State reuse plan, collaborates with city
The city of Milledgeville, Baldwin County and Georgia College are in the process of redeveloping Central State Hospital into a center for rural health care delivery and education.
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The Central State Hospital (CSH) reuse is anchored by a GC initiative called the Center of Excellence for Rural Health Care Delivery. The CSH campus will not only serve as a rural health care and education center, but it will also be an extension of GC’s health education programs.
GC has already begun evaluating the resources needed to establish the rural health care center, and the university has taken the lead in this reuse initiative.
In February 2011, Dorothy Leland, former GC president, developed an executive summary on the university’s concept for rural health care at CSH.
“Dr. Leland developed this (summary) after meeting with various entities across the state,” said Amy Amason, vice president for external relations and university advancement.
Leland’s executive summary is a proposal that the university is working toward implementing.
Background to the Initial Plan
The idea of repositioning the historic core of CSH as a center for rural health care delivery and education was first discussed as part of a master planning process for state properties in Milledgeville, which was conducted in 2008 by Rosser International.
The implementation of developing the new center for rural health care and education as a partnership with public and private universities along with other agencies in the state of Georgia is reliant on the relocation of CSH to a new, state-of-the-art health care facility, which is part of phase one of the state properties master plan for Milledgeville and Baldwin County.
The previous use of CSH as a medical facility provides a lot of the necessary physical assets that would become part of the redeveloped rural health care center.
The size and location of CSH is beyond suitable for a rural health care center, and the plan recommends that a 322-acre tract at the north end of the CSH campus be re-purposed as a campus of GC, which will manage the rural health care center in collaboration with other higher education institutions in the region, according to Leland’s executive summary.
Rural Needs and Accessibility
The United Health Foundation ranked Georgia 43rd in the overall health of its residents in 2009. Georgia has 2 million rural residents that face significant health care challenges. Some of these challenges include isolation, provider shortages, long travel distances and scarcity of specialty care.
Rural residents are older; 13 percent of rural populations are 65 years old or older compared with 10 percent urban families, according to the United Health Foundation.
Rural residents are also sicker, as they are more likely to suffer from heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Rural Georgians are also more likely to be under-insured or uninsured, according to Georgia’s State Office of Rural Health.
Milledgeville borders many underserved counties with regard to health care delivery. These counties include Baldwin, Washington, Hancock, Putnam, Jasper, Morgan, Greene and Twiggs.
The plan to develop a rural health care center will focus on the effective delivery of health care to the surrounding counties and other underserved areas in the state through education, research and specialized training with the use of interactive technology in rural health care delivery.
In terms of potential for not only Milledgeville and GC, but also for the surrounding counties that are directly adjacent to the CSH campus, the renovation to the campus is Milledgeville’s greatest economic development opportunity, according to the CSH Reuse Initiative Executive Summary presented by the City of Milledgeville.
The CSH reuse plan will bring a new service sector and professional jobs to Milledgeville.
“A consistent and creative approach to the redevelopment of this great old facility could have decades of impact on the economic vitality of the region. It is the best for Milledgeville’s future,” according to the CSH Reuse Initiative Executive Summary.
Training and Research Programs
The new rural health care center will have a specialized focus on comprehensive telehealth training programs across the health professions, consulting services for rural communities seeking technology supported health care, and similar programs and services needed to effectively address Georgia’s rural health care challenges.
The rural health care center will include five specific components: training programs, consulting services, distance education, research programs and it will serve as a resource clearinghouse.
The rural health care center will serve as a site for comprehensive telehealth training programs, which will feature a hands-on approach to multiple aspects of technology-supported care services. The center will also provide telehealth-consulting services to rural communities.
“Telehealth is the thought process of using a home base for research and resource, and using automation via laptop and wireless web to provide health care directly in a bedroom or home,” Milledgeville City Planner, Mike Couch said. “Telehealth can provide health care for those who are unable to reach Emory University Hospital or any other regional health care system.”
The rural health care center will provide distance education for rural health care providers and patients in multiple formats, including web-seminars, special certification related courses and other online courses.
The new center will be an information clearinghouse for rural telehealth, and a rural healthcare public policy think-tank.
Grant funded research and demonstration projects will be supported by the rural healthcare center. The demonstration projects will focus on rural health and the use of technology to address rural health challenges.
The College of Health Sciences will play a major role in implementing specific health care resources, but “it is too early to say what facilities will be available,” Judy Bailey, media relations manager, said.
The CSH campus consist of approximately 190 buildings, and almost 2,000 acres of developed and forested land. Today less than 15 percent of the facility is being used.
The buildings contained in the 322-acre tract at the north end of the hospital’s campus will be ideally suited to support the new Center’s functions. This track consists of buildings located around a central green space. The buildings include an auditorium, museum, dormitory-style buildings and the historic Powell Building.
The former dormitories will serve as short-term housing for those who travel from around the state and nation to participate in training programs, conferences and continuing education programs. The dormitories will also provide temporary housing for faculty from partner institutions who participate in research studies and other sponsored programs, according to Leland’s executive summary.
The auditorium will facilitate large meetings and lectures, and the dignified and expansive Powell building will serve as the technological and administrative hub for the Center’s operations, according to Leland’s executive summary.
Gaining Support and the Next Steps
GC is in the initial stages of a process for reaching out to other academic institutions, agencies and potential funding partners to gather their ideas and gauge their interest.
“Right now we are in the process of seeking a grant to fund a feasibility study,” Amason said.
Some potential partners include several nonprivate universities as well as several private universities: Georgia Health Sciences University, University of Georgia, Mercer University and Emory University.
“We are working with Georgia Rural Health Association and we have actually had inquiries Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis,” Couch said.
Other partnerships include Georgia Department of Community Health, the Georgia Department of Human Services, and several non-profit organizations such as Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, Inc.
The process of revamping the Central State Campus and transforming it into the Center of Excellence for Rural Health Care Delivery is extensive. The city has already been working on the planning process for a year, and they expect the planning to last another 12 to 18 months.
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