Views differ on how proposed Lee Co. hospital would affect jobs

Views differ on how proposed Lee Co. hospital would affect jobs
Commissioners said the project would create more than 350 jobs (Source: WALB)
The CON application details recruitment (Source: WALB)
The CON application details recruitment (Source: WALB)
Nurses will be needed (Source: WALB)
Nurses will be needed (Source: WALB)

LEE CO., GA (WALB) - Proponents of the proposed Lee County Medical Center are still waiting to hear the fate of the project decided by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Those for the new hospital said they believe it would create a net gain of jobs, while those against it have stated it could hurt the regional economy.

With a new hospital, of course, would come new jobs. Lee County officials originally estimated the creation of 50 to 85, but the latest projection is now over 350 positions.

"As the people that actually run hospitals and know how to run a hospital got involved, they gave us more clarity as to what the numbers would be," Lee County Commissioner Rick Muggridge said.

To be exact, the Certificate of Need application submitted by Lee County Medical Center CEO Edward Alexander lists the creation of 356 new jobs, including 134 new registered nurses.

"There are certain fields that are in very high demand like nurses," Muggridge said. "So, that may be difficult to recruit."

Muggridge added that recruiting responsibility falls on the hospital operator.

In the CON application, the operating company states that the business would work with area nursing schools, including ASU and Albany Tech, and leverage the other relationships in the healthcare industry.

The nursing shortage is something all hospitals in the country are facing.

"This is not just unique to the Albany area, or to Phoebe, but it's really state and nationwide," Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Evelyn Olenick said.

Phoebe officials said they cannot directly comment on the impact a new hospital would have on jobs, due to a Federal Trade Commission order. They were able to give us some insight as to how big the nursing shortage is though.

"Over the next decade at least one-third will retire taking a lot of skill and experience out of the workforce," Olenick said. "You have 70 million Baby Boomers also retiring with chronic degenerative conditions."

Olenick added that Phoebe is also working with nearby nursing schools and operating a number of externships and mentorship programs to fill its jobs.

While critics of the proposed Lee County hospital have said its creation could make the region's economic situation worse, Lee County Commissioners disagree.

"I don't want anybody to lose a job," Muggridge said. "I want this to be a positive net gain of jobs. I believe with my whole heart that it will be a net gain of jobs."

Muggridge also said that he hopes all hospitals are forced to offer better quality services and career options to South Georgia, but first he added the project will have to get approved.

Muggridge said he believes the Albany market can support two hospitals because it once did for around forty years.

The proposed Lee Co. hospital would demand 356 new jobs. Phoebe officials said they have 280 open positions and a total of around 4,300 employees.

Phoebe officials said those staffing levels are average compared to other hospitals their size.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved.

Keep up with WALB on the go! 
Follow us on social  
   and download our apps!