AGH Seeks Funds For Expansion

OCEAN CITY – Atlantic General Hospital could be seeing some significant facility improvements in the future if $700,000 in funding is raised to match a $700,000 state grant.

Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) President and CEO Michael Franklin presented the Mayor and City Council with the proposed improvements this week, including a Primary Care Clinic, Child Advocacy Center, Diabetes Patient Education and Care Center, Outpatient Medical Services and the expansion of the 10th Street Townsend Medical Center.

Since its construction in 1993, AGH has gone through a variety of changes and growth.

“Our main facility has grown from 75,000 square feet to 108,000 square feet with a 19-bed state-of-the-art emergency department,” said Franklin.

The number of physicians within the community has also expanded from just six physicians to 163. From 2003 to 2007, a variety of departments have been added to AGH, including full service imaging with MRI, the Center for Joint Surgery, Women’s Diagnostic Center, ADA-recognized Diabetes Program and a designated stroke center. In fall 2007, the construction of the James G. Barrett Medical Center was completed, adding a variety of medical offices to the AGH campus.

“The center of everything that we do is individual and community health,” said Franklin, defining the vision of AGH to, “be the leader in promoting access to healthcare services for the residents and visitors of Worcester County and the surrounding region.”

Besides highlighting the significant growth of AGH thus far, Franklin called attention to the economic impact that AGH has had on Ocean City and the surrounding region. According to Franklin, the amount of money infused into the local business community in the fiscal year 2007 totaled $59,947,187.

“Through salaries, construction projects, using local vendors…it’s a tremendous economic impact, not just a health impact,” Franklin said.

AGH employs 681 active associates, which results in an annual payroll of nearly $27 million.

“We’ve got quite a number of people that we employ in the community,” Franklin said.

When completed, the proposed expansion will contain 9,700 square feet and four new services – Primary Care Clinic, Child Advocacy Center, Diabetes Patient Education and Care Center and Outpatient Medical Services.

The Primary Care Clinic will be the only clinic in the area to provide financial assistance to those unable to pay, will provide expanded weekday and Saturday hours and will total 4,600 square feet, reported Franklin.

The Child Advocacy Center will be approximately 2,700 square feet and will play a major role in the community. Currently there are no Child Advocacy Centers in the three counties of the lower shore that provide medical treatment of pediatric victims. Franklin reported that from July 2004 to July 2005, the Worcester County Social Services investigated 476 cases of suspected child abuse, 100 of which required a forensic exam by an AGH nurse.

The Comprehensive Diabetes Patient Education and Care Center will house the expanding diabetes program and will aim to ensure that the standards of care of diabetes patients are followed.

“We will be adding a component which is, I’d say, very underserved in the community,” said Franklin.

The Outpatient Medical Services will be the first of its kind in the county. Franklin explained that through the Outpatient Medical Services, they would be able to reduce the number of patients presenting to the emergency room with non-urgent, behavioral health needs for treatment.

Besides the addition of the four new services, the AGH expansion also includes the expansion of the 10th Street Townsend Medical Center in Ocean City.

Expansion at the Townsend Center will include expanded primary care practice, same-day walk-in care, year-round family medicine, occupational medical services, imaging services and access to AGH specialists.

“We believe that we have a tremendous opportunity at 10th Street to modernize that facility and to expand our services there,” said Medical Director Dr. Stephen Waters.

Franklin reported that a $700,000 state grant match had been approved, noting that their part of the match will come from a mix of fundraising, private donations and county and town funding.

“I would just like to thank them for the hard work they do for the town,” Council member Nancy Howard said of the entire AGH community. “We went for many years having to drive 30 miles for healthcare.”