Sumter displaced doctors learn patience

March 5, 2007

Americus--  Sumter County is in the middle of a health crisis. The powerful tornado that swept across Americus nearly wiped out Sumter Regional and it put many doctors in town temporarily out of business.

Some are still searching for places to serve their patients.   The city is doing something to help get them back on their feet.  

More than a year of planning and building has been halted. "It was real close to being done," said Dr. Michael Busman.

Nothing is left of what was to be a 15,000 square foot medical facility in Americus. Dr. Michael Busman was all set to move in but the tornado did first.

"I was like 'oh gosh this is bad.' We were looking forward to moving into a nice modern facility with more space. Now we have to start all over," said Busman.

He's still amazed by the damage and stands in what was the new waiting area for Sumter Family Medicine and Sports Medicine Center. "You can't fix this. Knock it down, clean it up, then start all over," said Busman.

Add another building to those losses. The storm took away what was their current office.  You can see the sky where the tornado ripped the roof from the building. Broken glass is all over the ground. Dr. Busman was actually in the building when the storm hit.

"All this banging and glass busting and everything. It was kind of scary," said Busman. Now office employees are picking up the pieces.

"Yeah it's really devastating," said Nurse Carol Baker. They're salvaging patient x-rays and charts.

"I'm actually going to call some of these patients to make sure they're ok and to let them know that we're thinking about them," said Baker.

Displaced doctors have their patients in mind as they try to shift to new locations.  The city of Americus is helping as best they can with the transition.

"What I'm doing is compiling a database of available space, both office space, storefront space, warehouse space and even apartments and other residences that are available for use by people who have been displaced," said Americus Chief Administrative Officer Charlotte Cotton.

"The medical community is all pulling together to try to find places to locate temporarily until we can get back on our feet," said Busman.

Luckily, a sign now sits by the road for Dr. Busman's new temporary location. Hopefully the third is a charm, at least for a little while.

"It could be a little bit bigger but we are just going to have to make do. It's better than nothing," said Busman.

If anything, the tornado taught doctors in Sumter County to be a little patient.

There is a constantly changing list of available spaces for rent in Sumter County, many in the downtown area. The city will update the list every morning and share it with city and county agencies. They've already rented a good amount of properties. 

To find out how to rent or offer space, contact Americus Chief Administrative Officer Charlotte Cotton at 229-924-4411.