Southeast Georgia Health System broke ground Thursday on a $140 million renovation and expansion project at the Brunswick campus.

Construction equipment served as a backdrop behind the groundbreaking ceremony podium, where hospital leaders and community members shared their excitement for the construction plans.

The large-scale project will include more than 70,000 square feet of new construction and more than 100,000 square feet of renovations.

“All of it is in the same footprint of what we have today,” said Woody Woodside, chair of the facilities and properties committee for Southeast Georgia Health System and president of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.

The project is slated to take three years to complete.

The Emergency Care Center will be expanded to add 15 exam and treatment rooms, for a total of 50. Sixteen operating rooms, endoscopy suites, a post-anesthesia care unit and pre-and post-recovery bays will also be added.

“It matters that we have a hospital with modern architecture and the latest infrastructure,” said Erick Bournigal, chief of staff at the Brunswick hospital campus.

The groundbreaking ceremony officially kicked off work on a new surgical services tower and inpatient floor that will consist of 32 private patient rooms.

“I hear that if I throw a shovel full of dirt I get to claim I built this place,” Bournigal joked.

A new main entrance will be located on Parkwood Drive and will include a canopy and two-story lobby. Covered parking will be located at the Parkwood Drive entrance.

Visitors to the hospital and community members who’ve driven by have seen preparation work going on for about a year.

“Those are all called ‘enabling’ projects which allowed us to get to this point today where we can actually start digging dirt and breaking ground on our master renovation and facilities expansion project,” said Marjorie Mathieu, vice president of the Southeast Georgia Health System.

The new facility, once completed, will be state-of-the-art, Mathieu said, and the project will provide much-needed updates, as some of the hospital’s facilities date back to the 1960s.

“Actually, we moved to this site in 1954,” she said. “And so this project is a prime example of our commitment to meeting the needs of the community.”

Robert Turner, chair of the Southeast Georgia Health System, recalled his own initial visit to the Brunswick hospital, many years ago.

“My first visit to this hospital was when I was in third grade,” he said. “I broke my collarbone playing sandlot football, and I came to the emergency room. And it looked a little bit, pretty much, like it does today.”

The planned renovations, during which the hospital will remain open, require many intricate moving parts to keep operations running smoothly.

“We hope you’ll excuse our noise while we undergo this change,” Turner said.

The Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital Authority approved the renovation project in November 2017. The project is set to be completed at the end of 2020.

The project has been partially funded by nearly $107 million of bonds through the hospital authority.

Other donors have also stepped up to make the funding of the project possible, said Michael Scherneck, president and CEO of Southeast Georgia Health System. The Thomas & Mildred Beach trust gave $4.7 million, and the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation committed $4 million to the project.

The foundation has also begun a 20-20 Vision Campaign aiming to raise an additional $4 million.

More than $5 million has been raised through other donations.

Work has already begun on the Emergency Care Center upgrades and the planned demolition of the human resources wing.

The hospital has seen dramatic growth in recent years in the number of patients it serves, Scherneck said. The renovations will allow the health system to continue to meet the needs of patients today and for generations to come.

“We’re dedicated to providing services to meet the needs of our community and are looking forward to be able to make some additional changes to really help serve the community of our future,” he said.

Scherneck said he looks forward to seeing everyone again for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in a couple of years.

“It will be an extensive project time-wise, but our commitment is to really make sure we do this respectfully of where we’re at, and the end result will be well worth the inconvenience,” Scherneck said after the ceremony. “… It’s really going to be part of the fabric of this community for decades to come.”

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