Healthcare’s big day in South Baldwin

Freestanding ED breaks ground and $170 million expansion announced

By Melanie LeCroy and Jessica Vaughn
Posted 6/26/20

Last week staff and city officials from Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach gathered to break ground on the future South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Freestanding Emergency Department in Gulf …

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Healthcare’s big day in South Baldwin

Freestanding ED breaks ground and $170 million expansion announced


Last week staff and city officials from Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach gathered to break ground on the future South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Freestanding Emergency Department in Gulf Shores. The event included a surprise announcement of a $170 million expansion at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley.

The freestanding emergency department, which will be located adjacent to Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores, will be 14,000 square feet, have nine exam rooms, a full complement of diagnostic imaging, laboratory services and a helipad. The facility will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve patients who experience medical emergencies and will be equipped to treat patients with illnesses and injuries that require a higher level of care than urgent care facilities offer.

Construction is expected to start July, 2020, with an anticipated opening of summer, 2021.

“Today marks a significant step forward in our continued pursuit of expansion of health care services throughout southern Baldwin County. It also signifies our ability to execute on a strategy of staying true to our commitment of providing exceptional health care that is convenient and close to home,” said Daniel McKenny, CEO of South Baldwin Regional Medical Center.

South Baldwin Regional Medical Center houses Baldwin County’s only chest pain accredited facility and stroke accredited facility. It was recently recognized as one of only two sepsis certified facilities in the state of Alabama.

“The same team of physicians, nurses, and staff who have helped us reach these high standards will be providing care at this new Freestanding Emergency Department when it opens,” McKenny said.

The mayors of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Foley have been working together for many years to get better access to health care. As the area’s roads became more congested, getting critical care patients to a hospital became more difficult. Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft spoke to the crowd regarding these issues.

“With millions of visitors coming here every year and thousands of residents that have needs, trying to get to the north side of Foley in today’s traffic to get to the emergency room was technically impossible. We had issues that everybody recognized and so did South Baldwin Regional and Community Health,” he said. “As we continue to grow this is not going to get less crowded it’s going to get more crowded and this is an important beginning to how we work together.”

Gulf Shores and the Alabama Department of Transportation will begin work on a new traffic signal to give access to the medical campus off of Highway 59. A northbound road connecting to County Road 4 will also be constructed through property the city of Gulf Shores owns. Traffic coming from Orange Beach will be able to use this route to avoid Highway 59 and decrease travel time to the Freestanding Emergency Department.

Prior to the groundbreaking, the city of Foley funded a two-mile extension to Fern Avenue, located within its city limits. The new extension will provide a faster means for first responders from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to travel to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. Alternatively, the route will provide faster travel for Foley first responders assisting neighboring beach municipalities. To further the efforts to provide a direct and safe route to the hospital, the Foley Fire Department and Orange Beach Fire Department worked together to install two traffic signal preemptive systems on the lights along the new extension.

Orange Beach mayor, Tony Kennon spoke to the importance of saving time during a medical emergency.

“Time is muscle and now from Ono to the Island we can have people on the table with our enhanced ambulance services in a very short period. That translates into lives saved and quality of life preserved. This is a huge piece of the quality of life puzzle for us and I do not know if anything fills that gap more than health care. I want to thank everybody involved and let you know how much we appreciate it in Orange Beach and Ono Island. It is special to all of us and I look forward to being a part of making this thing work in a tri-city fashion,” Kennon said.

Chairman and CEO of Community Health Systems Wayne Smith ended the presentation with a surprise for the crowd gathered on the site of the future South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Freestanding Emergency Department.

“I have a little surprise for you today. We are totally excited about the Freestanding ED, but this is going out this afternoon. South Baldwin Regional Medical Center has announced a $170 million-dollar major expansion and renovation to advance medical services for the growing population of Baldwin County and greater coastal Alabama.”

This will mark the largest building program in the hospital's history, and will include the addition of a 133,433 square foot, four-story patient tower. The tower will house a new surgical department with a dedicated outpatient entrance, 10 operating rooms including three with robotic equipment, an endoscopy center, patient prep and recovery area and PACU. The tower’s second and third floors will contain nursing units, including a larger intensive care unit. The future fourth floor shell space can be built out to increase the bed count based on community need.

Existing spaces will see the addition of a laboratory and an expansion of the existing pharmacy and dietary areas. The exterior of the existing hospital will be refinished to match the new construction.

Parking areas for patients and staff will also increase by more than 50 percent.

The crowd erupted with applause and cheers as a poster with the artist’s rendering of the new facility was brought onstage.

“Every time I come down here it costs me a lot of money,” Smith laughed as he called Kennon, Craft and Foley’s mayor John Koniar to the stage to hold the poster.

“I want to thank you all for your support. It is important to us to have the right partners and we have the right partners here. We love to spend our money where we have good partners and growing communities. We are filing our letter of intent for the Certificate of Need today. We are excited about this. This is not about buildings by the way. This is about you all and the service and the quality that you provide the patients and the patient experience that they have,” Smith said.