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After 100 years, East Georgia Regional Medical Center looks to future
East Georgia Regional Medical Center - photo by FILE
    While East Georgia Regional Medical Center, formerly known as Bulloch Memorial Hospital, celebrates it's 100th anniversary, Chief Executive Officer Bob Bigley is looking ahead to the future.
    There's no telling how the hospital will change over the next 100 years, he said.
    Bigley, who has been CEO of the hospital since June 2005, has already seen some major changes in health care at the hospital. Having been in health care for 39 years, starting out as a nursing assistant, Bigley has seen a great deal of progress and change, and some of the most exciting things he's seen have centered around East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
    The biggest thing making a splash in the medical field is technology. One example of how much technology has changed — and continues to rapidly change — is the hospital's new 64 slice CT scan, which he said is "truly state of the art."
    A CT scan (often called a CAT scan) once took about 30 minutes, he said. Now, with the new machine, a CT scan takes a mere 10 seconds.
    Technology is a fast-moving field and with its ever-changing face, medicine could be completely different in the future, Bigley said.
    "The big changes, certainly will be technology," he said. "Technology has been driving health care  for some time.
    "The quality of images and diagnostic testing is incredible," he said. "There have been so many advances made" such as the new CT scan.
    Bigley said he expects the hospital's business to continue growing to  the point it will likely expand within five years, possibly adding up to 100 more beds, increasing capacity to 250 beds.
    The hospital was built to accommodate expansion, he said.
    With the increase and improvement in services offered, East Georgia Regional Medical Center is quickly growing into an option chosen by citizens in surrounding counties, including Effingham, Screven, Jenkins, Evans, and Emanuel counties, he said.
    "We offer a broader variety of services ... and (the hospital's) reputation has continued to improve," he said.
    The addition of more physicians will lure more patients as well. Some doctors who have committed to the hospital and will join the ranks soon are Dr. Deland Gaines, an orthopedic surgeon; Dr. Lisa Robinson; and a husband and wife team of radiologists, Drs. Colin and Janine Dodds. Four others plan to come aboard, including two obstetrician-gynecologists, a family practitioner and a plastic surgeon who also specializes in hand surgery, he said.
Change in laws leads to new service
    Another exciting change is East Georgia Regional Medical Center will be performing interventional cardiology, due to change in Georgia laws that will allow the hospital to add this service.
    "That's going to be a major change for us," he said.
    Bruce Yawn, a member of the hospital's board of trustees, said he wouldn't be surprised to see the hospital offering open heart surgery to patients in the future.
    "I really think you'll see more and more of the advanced technology" at the hospital as the years go by, he said. "I wouldn't be surprised in 10 years they would be able to do open heart surgery."
    He expects the hospital will continue it's  progress, reflecting on it's recent accolades such as the Wound Care Center and recruiting efforts to attract doctors trained in specialty areas, he said.
    "I've really been impressed," he said. " The key (to continued growth) is the doctors we're attracting."
    Yawn predicts more doctors will be lured to the Statesboro area by seeing its potential as a place to grow their practices, he said.
    Another change in medicine that will lead to better service and improved health care is the move to have all medical records kept electronically, instead of in heavy binders.
    EGRMC has already begun making that move, he said.
    "It will be a big benefit for not only hospitals, but patients, too," he said.
    Another future expansion in the works is increasing the number of operating rooms at EGRMC and expanding the operating rooms and waiting rooms for families, he said.
    But while progress is being made, Bigley worries that a doctor shortage in the upcoming years may affect medicine.  "It's going to be more and more difficult to find health professionals, and another type of care giver will have to evolve."
    But with ever-increasing technology and better medicines that allow some patients to spend less time in the hospital, or even be treated as outpatients instead of inpatients, the problem may be partially solved.
    "Technology will continue to grow and probably will be part of the answer," he said.
    While larger hospitals such as EGRMC will continue to expand, smaller hospitals will likely disappear, he said.
    "Unfortunately I don't believe many of the (smaller community) hospitals will survive long-term, unless the  government or taxpayers decided to contribute more to the hospitals, " he said.
    The downsizing of smaller community hospitals will send more patients to the steadily growing larger hospitals like East Georgia Regional Medical Center, he said. "Our hospital will find a way to help support other communities and community hospitals, and that will increase the number of patients here."
    Yawn said having a leader whose focus is quality health care is bound to affect the hospital in a positive manner, as it already has under Bigley's leadership.
    "I think Bob is an excellent administrator, and health care is his main concern," he said.

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