New Piedmont Newnan Hospital holds community day event

Nearly 3,000 people attended the March 14 community day event at the new 364,000 square-foot Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Poplar Road at I-85 that will open May 8. Photo/Ben Nelms.

“It’s becoming a regional medical destination.” That is how Coweta County Development Authority President Greg Wright summed up the situation at the community day event held March 14 at the new Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Poplar Road that will open its doors for patients in early May. The community day event drew nearly 3,000 people and included tours of the 364,000 square-foot facility that rises nine stories in the air.

The new Piedmont Newnan Hospital will receive patients from the current facility on May 8. But it was on March 14 that area residents got a close-up look at the 364,000 square-foot hospital that, at nine stories in height, is arguably the tallest building in southwest metro Atlanta. The community day event was like the medical version of, “If you build it they will come.” And they did.

An estimated 3,000 people poured into the facility on Poplar Road at Interstate 85 with more than 2,000 of those shuttled in for the event.

In a ceremony in front of the building early Saturday afternoon band members from Newnan, Northgate, East Coweta high schools and The Heritage School played, Piedmont officials made brief remarks and an American flag flown in Iraq was raised and saluted by hospital employees serving in military reserve units.

So what was all the fanfare about? It is the facility itself. The hospital was a $167 million project that took 28 months and more than 1 million man-hours to build, according to information provided by Piedmont Newnan. It includes 136 all private in-patient rooms of which 104 are medical/surgical rooms along with 14 post-partum rooms and 18 critical care rooms. The hospital is outfitted with 23 emergency examination/treatment rooms and a separate room specially designed for the decontamination process. The emergency department is three times the size of the current facility, hospital staff said.

As for the structure, the nine-story hospital stands 160 feet in height and carries a two-acre footprint on the 105-acre property. The next closest building of its size is the Rhodes-Haverty Building on Williams Street in Atlanta, according to information supplied by Piedmont Newnan. And at 364,000 square feet the new hospital is only slightly smaller than the Georgia Dome at 375,000 square feet.

The larger replacement hospital will also be accompanied by a larger staff. The 829 employees at the old Piedmont Newnan is expected to see a 33 percent increase in the first year to approximately 1,100 employees.

Fronting Poplar Road, the building is stunning. It is outfitted with nearly 60,000 square feet of exterior glass, a feature included in the design, according to Piedmont staff, because studies show that patients heal faster and staff work better when surrounded by an abundance of natural light.

But what about the aspects of the new hospital that are not so obvious? More than 2,500 tons of structural steel that weighed more than 5 million pounds were used in its construction, equaling 95,000 linear feet that would extend a distance of nearly 18 miles.

The construction also included 300 tons of reinforced concrete and 14,000 yards of additional concrete material. Included in the construction was more than 430,000 bricks, nearly half the amount used in Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. Laid end-to-end those bricks would stretch approximately 50 miles, the distance from Newnan to Buckhead.

Still further out of sight are other features designed to benefit patients and staff. The hospital’s automation system will allow operating rooms to be cooled quickly prior to surgeries and heated quickly following medical procedures to keep patients comfortable.

As a benefit to patients, all intensive care beds will feature technology that includes music therapy and basic language interpretation services.

Patients with sensitivity to smells or who have allergies or other conditions will benefit from the use of low chemical-emitting materials used in the building.

And the new hospital will feature a pneumatic tube system that allows laboratory specimens and medications to be transported through it rather than being physically transported.

But there is still more and it deals with the environment in and around the hospital and the structure itself. Aside from features such as an abundance of natural lighting, the hospital’s roof will be “green-irrigated” with plant material to provide greater insulation and substantially lengthening the lifetime of the roof. Green roofs have also been shown to improve air quality by capturing airborne pollutants and filtering noxious gases.

These and other features incorporated in the hospital’s construction led Piedmont Newnan to apply for the environmentally-active LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System certification.

Taking the environmentally-active and cost-saving approach on the hospital grounds, the landscaping plan utilizes indigenous plants, drip irrigation and moisture sensors designed to reduce water usage by up to 50 percent. And the hospital has partnered with the Coweta County Water Authority to lay a two-mile-long pipeline that will run from the waste treatment plant to the hospital to provide non-potable water for irrigation purposes.

For all the understandable attention paid to the opening of the new hospital, there is much more to the story. It is not just the hospital staff that will be ready to welcome patients in early May. The 125,000 square-foot Piedmont Medical Plaza adjacent to the hospital is completely leased-out, Wright said. Beyond that there is significant interest in parcels around the 105-acre hospital property that will likely be developed for medical purposes, Wright added.

It is a common sight in both urban and suburban areas to see an influx of medical facilities locating near hospitals. And for the Piedmont Newnan replacement hospital located in a sparsely developed area on Poplar Road there are few limits to what will emerge in years to come. And adding to that emerging potential is the planned Poplar Road interchange at Interstate 85 located immediately to the west that will add significantly to the hospital’s accessibility and its likelihood of becoming a regional medical destination.

And further into the future at a time yet to be determined there is an abundance of space available for an expansion of the hospital itself. Those plans include another nine story hospital tower that would link with the current facility, bringing the hospital to nearly 800,000 square feet, and another medical office building totaling 125,000 square feet.

The wealth of information about the facility provided by Piedmont Newnan staff also included a glimpse into the past. Newnan got its first hospital, actually seven of them, in 1863 when the makeshift units were established and treated nearly 10,000 soldiers by the end of the Civil War. It was in 1912 that the Newnan Sanatorium opened on Madison Street and in 1919 that local businessman Henry Arnall began efforts to raise $50,000 to build a modern hospital. That hospital opened its doors on June 1, 1925. Its replacement came in 1962 with the opening of the 103-bed Coweta General Hospital.

Coweta General Hospital was purchased by Humana in 1982 and, in 1995, plans were announced for a merger with Columbia/HCA Healthcare’s Peachtree Regional Medical Center under the name Newnan Hospital. In 2007 Piedmont Healthcare bought the hospital and announced plans to build a new facility. And now on May 8 the new Piedmont Newnan Hospital will become operational.

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