The History of South Georgia Medical Center
Pineview General Hospital opened on July 1, 1955, as a 100-bed, public healthcare facility serving the residents of Valdosta and surrounding communities. The hospital’s construction was made possible by the Hill-Burton Hospital Construction Act. The Act, which provided two-thirds of the construction costs for new public hospitals, was funded by Congress to help meet the country’s growing healthcare needs following World War II. Pineview received additional construction funds from state and local governments.
In the 56 years since its founding, South Georgia Medical Center has grown from a small community hospital into a regional referral center serving approximately 350,000 residents in north Florida and south Georgia. Today, the hospital is recognized for many Centers of Excellence, including the Pearlman Cancer Center, The Birthplace and the Dasher Memorial Heart Center.
SGMC’s history is marked with change. The first medical facilities in Lowndes County were small infirmaries and converted homes called ‘sanatoriums.’ However, the growing population of Lowndes County in the early 1900s necessitated the development of more permanent hospital facilities to meet the community’s medical needs.
In 1915, Dr. A.G. Little and Dr. Archibald Griffin built a private hospital at 1307 North Patterson Street. It was named the Little-Griffin Hospital, and since it was a private hospital, its use was limited to patients of the two physicians.
In the beginning, Little-Griffin Hospital had 40 patient beds, an X-ray department, a laboratory, an emergency room, one operating room and a food services department. The staff consisted of two general practitioners and 12 nurses. The hospital started an in-service training school for nurses in 1916, with a dormitory residence for the nurses behind the main hospital. In 1919, a 34-bed patient care annex was added to accommodate the growing practices of Drs. Little and Griffin.
In 1921, Dr. Frank Bird and Dr. J.F. Mixson began a small infirmary in the upper story of a building at the corner of Central Avenue and Ashley Street. Six years later, the Bird and Mixson Infirmary moved into a larger building intersecting Stevens and Briggs Streets with Central Avenue. In 1932, Dr. Mixson and Dr. Bird dissolved partnership. Dr. Bird continued to operate the Infirmary with the help of Dr. D. L. Burns. For a while, Dr. Bird’s son, Ashley was associated with the hospital. Dr. Bird suffered a terrible accident in 1943 and his injuries forced him to discontinue his medical practice. The Infirmary closed permanently.
At Little-Griffin Hospital, two new partners joined the practice in 1927—Dr A. F. Saunders and Dr. B.G. Owens. The corporate name was changed to Little-Griffin-Owens-Saunders Hospital, although it was still publicly known as Little-Griffin. The hospital remained private, with admitting privileges extended only to two other doctors, ear-eye-nose-and-throat specialists Drs. J. M. Smith and T. H. Smith. When The Great Depression hit in 1929, the nursing school closed because the graduate nurses couldn’t find employment.
By the mid-1930s, things were improving and other physicians were invited to practice medicine at Little-Griffin. Various specialists, including surgeons, obstetricians and pediatricians affiliated with the facility. When Dr. Griffin died in 1935, Dr. Owens purchased controlling interest and became general manager of the hospital.
By 1946, various hospital expansions and modernizations brought the total number of beds at Little-Griffin to 105. Following World War II, the Little-Griffin training school for nurses reopened and contributed significantly to the hospital’s growth. The post-war baby boom and other factors contributed to the hospital’s utilization.
During this time of growth and prosperity, local citizens began discussing the need for a publicly-owned, city-county hospital. A new bill approved by Congress, the Hill-Burton Act, allowed federal funds to supplement state and local funds to build new public hospitals in communities across the nation. Early in 1948, the Lowndes County Commission and Valdosta City Council established the Lowndes-Valdosta Hospital Authority. The state mandated that grants for new hospitals could be made only upon receipt of a firm agreement from the owners of existing private hospital(s) saying those facilities would close when the new public facility was completed. The owners of Little-Griffin-Owens-Saunders hospital all readily agreed.
On August 23, 1950, Lowndes County citizens went to the polls to approve using county funds for the local match, which would be about one-fifth of the total cost of the new hospital. The referendum passed by a ratio of 12-to-1. On September 14, 1950, Pendleton Park, an area of about 20 acres, was deeded to the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County. The project was underway. The original contract for construction was let to Ray M. Lee Company for $1,154,000. Project architects were Lloyd Greer, Conner Thomson and Zeb Lackey.
The Hospital Authority accepted suggestions for naming the hospital from the community. Pineview General Hospital was chosen because of the rural location. The doors opened July 1, 1955. Promptly, 35 patients were transferred from Little-Griffin. Pineview had approximately 75 employees on opening day.
During the early years, Pineview had more than its fair share of problems. Some were financial and others involved equipment, or the lack of it. The inpatient census rose and fell with unpredictability and it was challenging to generate consistent cash flow. However, the founding fathers remained committed to overcoming all obstacles. They worked tirelessly to receive more funding from all sources. They supported the addition of needed services, such as a blood bank and a chaplaincy program.
To meet the physicians’ needs for office space near the hospital, the Hospital Authority sold the east corner of the property to private investors for the construction of a Doctors’ Building.
To make use of community volunteers, a Volunteer Auxiliary formed in April, 1956. The Pink Ladies, as the Auxilians were called, delivered mail and flowers to patients and performed other duties. Eventually, the Pink Ladies began fundraisers to benefit the hospital.
The patient load at Pineview increased with the area’s burgeoning population. Early in 1960, the Hospital Authority requested a survey by the State Health Department. The survey results recommended that Pineview add 75 or more beds, an additional laboratory and new X-ray facilities. Federal and state governments agreed to allot funds for an expansion and modernization project after July 1, 1961 if the city and county could raise their one-third of the estimated cost. The citizens of Lowndes County voted and approved a bond issue that provided $350,000 toward the $1.2 million cost estimate for this building program.
The expansion project was completed in 1964 and 90 new patient beds, emergency room beds, X-ray and operating room facilities were added, along with a new chapel and a new pediatric wing. The medical staff numbered 40, representing the specialties of pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, OB-GYN, orthopedics, anesthesiology, pathology, radiology, ear-eye-nose-and-throat, urology and general medicine.
In May 1970, a federal grant assisted in the completion of a 26-bed Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center, the first of its kind in Georgia. This unit served as a five-county, mental health referral center. It was constructed as a two-story annex on the front of the facility.
In order to reflect the hospital's ever-increasing responsibility to serve the health needs of more than 200,000 persons in an 11-county medical service area of south central Georgia and north central Florida, Pineview’s name was changed to South Georgia Medical Center on October 20, 1971.
The 1970s brought big changes in ambulance care. The Emergency Services Network, which was signed into law by Governor Jimmy Carter, made Lowndes County (South Georgia Medical Center) one of two pilot-sites for a multi-county emergency response network including the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training program.
Under the superb leadership of SGMC affiliated physicians Dr. Bob Stump, Dr. Van Bennett, Dr. Alex Little, Dr. Mack Greer and Dr. James Mathis, a first-class Emergency Medical Services program was established. This program emphasized proper training, the need for the right equipment (some of which needed to be developed) and the importance of staffing SGMC’s emergency room with physicians 24-hours a day.
Since proper equipment was crucial to successful EMS operations, in 1972, Lowndes County was among the first EMS units in the nation to have ambulances equipped with advanced life support capability and radio telemetry. SGMC’s EMS was the first in the United States to obtain a Federal Communications Commission license to operate biomedical telemetry—a process that sends medical information from the ambulance to the emergency room using space-age technology. This allowed SGMC’s EMTs to treat patients enroute to the hospital. To this day, EMS proudly displays FCC license # 00001.
Also in 1972, Lowndes County passed another bond issue to expand and modernize SGMC. The $2.3 million construction program was completed in 1975. The new areas included an 8-bed medical intensive care unit, an 8-bed surgical intensive care unit, neonatal intensive care unit, 49-bed orthopedic-neurosurgical unit, new laboratory, expansion of the Emergency Room and X-ray department and modernization of several other areas of the Center. The number of licensed beds increased to 288.
The South Georgia Medical Center Foundation was created in 1978 to accept contributions on behalf of SGMC. The seed money used to start the Foundation was donated by the Kate Bentley Trust. Over the years, many generous individuals have given in excess of $6 million to benefit the services and facilities at SGMC.
In the fall of 1982, the biggest expansion and renovation in the hospital’s history was begun. This $26 million expansion took two years to complete. It added a north and west tower which opened for business in July, 1984, the new towers added lots of patient rooms, new operating suites, new nursery facilities, central supply and pharmacy, a large business office, cafeteria and new lobby space.
The Medical Center renovated the last remaining original area of Pineview General Hospital when the Labor and Delivery Suite was modernized in the mid ‘80s. When the renovation was completed, the area was re-named The Birthplace, and it quickly became the birthing center of choice for area moms. The modernization featured four birthing rooms, called LDRs, for labor, delivery and recovery. Traditional separate rooms for labor, delivery and recovery were also available. A Cesarean Section room allowed C-sections within the unit.
In early 1986, a Cancer Treatment Center was opened on the east end of the hospital campus. A radiation oncologist was recruited, and radiation oncology became a mainstay of cancer treatment, along with surgery. Several years later, the center added medical oncology to offer all three cancer treatment modalities—radiation oncology, hematology/medical oncology and surgery.
Hospice of South Georgia was started in 1987 as a supportive care system for persons with limited life expectancy. By providing skilled nursing care and other clinical services in the home, Hospice treats the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient and helps the family both during and after the illness. Hospice recently celebrated its 24th anniversary.
With an increasing need for office space, SGMC purchased the Doctors’ Building in October of 1986 from a group of private investors. Over the next few years, many non-patient care departments moved into this facility to free up valuable square footage in the main building.
SGMC opened an expanded Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on 5-South in 1987. A new rehabilitation department was completed, and the emergency department was expanded and renovated with a new design, incorporating a minor care area separate from the Emergency Care Unit.
In the late 1980s, SGMC completed a $1.3 million expansion and renovation of its laboratory. A key expansion component was the Laboratory Information System, which helped manage the increasing volumes of tests. Today, the fully-automated lab uses state-of-the-art technology and robotics to perform over 1,500,000 tests annually.
The Emergency Department was renovated in 1987 to add more beds and incorporate a 5-room minor care area. The minor care area quickly outgrew its corner of the ED and was relocated to a larger facility on the corner of Ashley and Cowart Streets.
In 1990, the SGMC Foundation announced a goal of $1 million to help pay the initial construction costs of the $6 million senior living facility, Langdale Place. A generous lead gift of $250,000 from the Langdale family resulted in the center being named in memory of family matriarch Thalia Lee Langdale.
The three-story, 60,000 square-foot center located off of Eager Road, was designed for ambulatory senior citizens who require minimal medical care and attention. A two-story annex opened in 1997 and The Palms, a dedicated Alzheimer’s wing with 24-hour supervision, opened in 2003.
Convenient Care Valdosta opened in 1993 as a self-contained, walk-in ambulatory care center to treat patients with minor injuries or illnesses. In addition to eight exam rooms and five observation rooms, the facility had its own X-ray and lab facilities.
Responding to a growing trend in outpatient services, SGMC opened its new $5.4 million Outpatient Center in 1994. The 25,000 square-foot center was built adjacent to the hospital’s surgical suites. The facility allows lab work, X-rays, EKGs and anesthesiology consultations to be carried out in one location. A 24-bed Outpatient Nursing Unit was built to accommodate our same-day surgery patients.
One of the most exciting and ambitious projects in recent history was the construction of the Pearlman Comprehensive Cancer Center (PCCC). Completed in 1995, the state-of-the-art, $5.5 million facility joined medical oncology and radiation oncology into one state-of-the-art facility. The PCCC is acclaimed nationally for its design and offers many features such as a patient library, activity room, nutrition center and an on-site satellite pharmacy and laboratory. All standard modalities of cancer treatment are provided, as well as clinical trial protocols.
The Cardiology Center opened in September, 1996, on 3-South. The renovation consolidated cardiac diagnostic testing, heart catheterization, a monitor bank, a 19-bed Cardiac Progressive Unit and an eight-bed Cardiac Intensive Care Unit onto one floor. Electro-cardiograph (EKG) testing, four kinds of stress testing, Transthoracic echocardiography, Transesophageal echocardiography, Stress echocardiography, 24-hour Holter monitoring and Tilt Table testing were provided to offer one seamless continuum of care for patients who come to SGMC with chest pain, dysrhythmias (abnormal rhythms), angina or other cardiac problems requiring assessment and treatment.
The Pulmonology/Neurology Wing on 4-east was remodeled in 1996 and added space for SGMC’s Sleep Disorders Center. The 2-bed sleep lab provides diagnostic monitoring for in-hospital studies. Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy and insomnia can have numerous health consequences if left untreated.
Since 1996, SGMC has renovated five nursing units. New color schemes and open work areas give the units a more modern look and meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. New furniture and equipment also increased patient and staff comfort.
In 1998, the Medical Imaging Services department also benefited from the addition of a $1 million Special Procedures room and new $1.5 million Magnetic Resonance Imager. Linen Services was also expanded to handle larger washers and boilers. The mechanical plant was also expanded to provide additional heating and cooling for the facility.
In March 1999, plans developed to bring Greenleaf Center, a private, 70-bed psychiatric and substance abuse hospital into the South Georgia Health System family. The contracts were finalized on May 1, 1999 and SGMC assumed ownership of the facility. SGMC closed the psychiatric wing at the main hospital and consolidated its behavioral health services at the Greenleaf facility on Pineview Drive. Greenleaf currently operates as a department of SGMC and provides programs for children, adolescents and adults with chemical dependency or emotional/behavioral problems.
SGMC opened a Wound Healing Clinic in May, 1999. The next year, a Diabetes Management Center was added in the same location and the facility became known as the SGMC Specialty Clinics. Today, the Wound Healing Clinic offers specialized treatment of non-healing chronic wounds often caused by poor circulation and/or diabetes. The Diabetes Management Center provides comprehensive patient evaluation and treatment of diabetes and diabetes related conditions.
In 2000, SGMC opened Convenient Care South, renamed as Health Care South, a walk-in clinic located at 520 Griffin Avenue. The clinic provides occupational medicine services and walk-in treatments for minor illnesses and injuries.
Another milestone renovation was the three-year project to consolidate all of Women & Children’s Services on to one level of the hospital. Beginning in 1999, the Pediatrics Unit was moved to 2-East. Renovation followed to relocate the Post Partum unit to 2-South. In 2002, eight, new, labor-delivery-recovery (LDR) rooms and a 15-bed gynecology/urology unit were added to complete the redesign project. State-of-the-art technology and safety-and-security systems were installed to provide a higher level of security in a patient-friendly environment.
When the Valdosta City Schools decided to vacate the old Sallas Mahone School property south of our Emergency department, SGMC saw a wise investment opportunity. The property was purchased from the Valdosta City Schools in 2001 and the old school buildings were demolished in 2002.
The Dasher Memorial Heart Center opened in November, 2001, after a three-year battle to win State Certificate of Need approval for the program’s implementation. Receiving the CON allowed SGMC to expand cardiology services to include interventional cardiology and open heart surgical services. Funded in part by a $1.5 million SGMC Foundation capital campaign, the heart center offers invasive and non-invasive diagnostic procedures, balloon angioplasty and stent placements, cardiac catheterizations, and open heart surgeries including valve replacements and bypass operations. Specialized patient care is provided on 3-south, SGMC’s dedicated cardiac floor, which provides an 8-bed cardiac intensive care unit and a 19-bed cardiac step-down unit. In April, 2002, a high-tech Chest Pain Evaluation Unit was added to our Emergency department and a second cardiac catheterization lab was opened on 3-south.
SGMC constructed its Open MRI Center in 2002. SGMC is the only healthcare provider in Valdosta to offer both high-field strength (1.5 Tesla) and low-field strength (0.2 Tesla) magnetic resonance imaging. The new facility offers easy patient access and a comfortable open magnet for individuals that find the conventional round MRI to tight and confining.
Also in 2002, Patient Care Services asked that 5-east, which was closed when Greenleaf was purchased, be turned into an Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU) for patients requiring a higher degree of skilled nursing care, but not the 2-to-1 nursing ration found in intensive care. Renovations were quickly completed and the IMCU became operational in 2003.
In August, 2003 SGMC began the completion of the shell space that was formed when Labor & Delivery was expanded in 2002. A new administrative suite and a larger, nicer food court named the Allspice Cafe were built. The Dasher Memorial Heart Center also opened two all-digital cardiac catheterization labs to better meet the needs of individuals receiving diagnostic caths, angioplasty and stents.
As we celebrate our 57th anniversary, one thing is certain—our prime motivation is serving the residents of this community. Today, we are a totally integrated health system. We offer inpatient and outpatient medical care, inpatient and outpatient behavioral health, a Level II trauma center, two ambulatory care clinics, a pediatric after-hours clinic, hospice, diabetes and wound care clinics, occupational medicine and a host of other services.
In the years ahead, we hope to continue our operational growth and service enhancements. SGMC is proud to be the leading economic engine in Valdosta and Lowndes County generating over $415 million in annual economic impact. We have distinguished ourselves by providing state-of-the-art health technologies and treatments, including numerous “firsts” in the region. This dedication to medical excellence helps us to attract and retain some of the profession's most talented affiliated physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.
We’ve invested heavily in computer archival and retrieval of patient medical information. In 2005, SGMC continues to move towards a totally paperless electronic medical record (EMR) system. Key components of this multi-million dollar initiative are Medication Administration, Physician Order Entry, Electronic Charting and Work Management Systems. EMR has improved efficiency, patient safety and eliminated the vast storage requirements once needed to house paper records. Today, SGMC has over 1000 computers and approximately 130 systems throughout our organization. Satellites link computers throughout our community and secure Internet connections allow physicians to consult with caregivers at the hospital as quickly as test results become available and/or patient conditions change.
In January of 2005, SGMC opened its fifth ambulance/EMS station. This station, located on Enterprise Drive, provides emergency response for nearly 90,000 residents in the vicinity of Gornto Road, Baytree Road, Lankford Drive, West Hill Avenue, Old Clyattville Road, Knights Ferry Road and the Azalea City Industrial Park.
December 13, 2005 brought changes to how SGMC answers calls. A new switchboard and answering system went into effect. This new system implements calls through the computer instead of the telephone. New automated greetings will go into effect; calls that are being held will continue to ring or be asked to continue to hold, and to retrieve calls you will only have to dial the extension. The phone system change brings a more professional environment and ease to those trying to reach SGMC.
Pediatrics can now be found in 2-west after its big move from 2-east in January of 2006. This move was due to the increasing amount of children that were being seen in the unit. Moving to the West side of the floor gives them 15 rooms in which seven can be semi-private holding a maximum capacity of 22 beds.
The doors to Information Technology building and Materials Management expansion were opened on Friday, September 22, 2006. The Information Technology building houses new clinical and business computer systems that will help SGMC store and manage information now and in the future. Materials Management now has a newer and larger loading dock along with more storage space from its expansion.
Ground breaking for the new Professional Building and Surgery Center was held in May 2007. These new facilities occupy the lot that was formerly Sallas-Mahone School on North Patterson. The Professional Building will have 75,749 square feet with 20 office suites. The Surgery Center will have four operating rooms, 12 discharge areas and two cystoscopy rooms.
The Langdale Hospice House opened its doors on June 3, 2007 for those who are in need of end-of-life care. Hospice is dedicated to keeping those with illnesses comfortable when there is no other medical treatment available. The house has fifteen private rooms with round the clock service and care for its patients. The Langdale Hospice House is the first of its kind in this community and provides a comfortable setting for families and patients alike.
SGMC welcomed upgrades to MRI scanners in July of 2007. The mobile MRI scanner was the first to be upgraded, and shortly behind it was the open MRI scanner where the .2 Tesla open magnet was replaced with a 1.5 Tesla long bore magnet. These improvements are just one of many that will improve the hospitals care for patients.
In July of 2007, SGMC introduced the multimillion dollar, software, automation and consulting services agreement with McKesson, one of the leading healthcare services corporations in the nation. SGMC decided to implement several of its products such as the Horizon Emergency Care Tracking board, the Horizon Emergency Care Documentation, Horizon Admin RX, and the Horizon Physician Portal.
A new Emergency Department opened to the public on August 27, 2007. The department houses 40 plus beds including a chest pain unit. The exciting renovation and expansion of this sector of the hospital brought greater care to the Valdosta-Lowndes county community.
One and a half million dollars was given to Hospice of South Georgia and the Langdale Hospice house in August of 2008. This gift was given by Mr. J.Y. Brooks, Jr. in honor of his wife Louise Brooks. The money was put into an Endowment Fund to ensure the gift continues to grow.
Early 2009 welcomed the opening of a couple of changes on SGMC's campus. The Professional Building opened housing the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center along with the Walk-in lab. They Surgery Center's doors were also opened.
A child care center was opened to benefit employees of South Georgia Medical Center on April 13, 2009. This child care center is the first of its kind in Valdosta. Located off Bemiss Road the facility provides care for children through a partnership with the YMCA. The facility is open 7 days a week from 6:30AM to 8PM to accommodate the varied work schedules for our employees.
SGMC welcomes new rehab technology in April 2009. SGMC is one of few hospitals treating stroke victims and other patients who may suffer from upper and lower extremity paralysis. The two new technologies are the NESS H200 Hand Rehabilitation System and the NESS L300 Foot Drop System. Both of these technologies are provided by the Bioness Inc. and will continue to advancement in helping those suffering from nervous system disease and damage.
The Medical Imaging/Phase II ED expansion added an expanded area for nuclear medicine and ultrasound. A 64-slice Computed Tomography scanner was also purchased as well as Mammotome, an MRI technology that targets suspicious breast lesions for a needle biopsy. The Open MRI facility on Ashley Street was renovated to house a second, fixed-base regular MRI. The Open MRI facility was renamed the Outpatient MRI center.
To meet the growing needs of our industrial and business community, SGMC doubled the size of our Occupational In Industrial Medicine Center on Griffin Avenue. This specialty center caters to the needs of business and industrial clients providing drug screens, treatment for minor work-place injuries and general employee wellness.
The Pearlman Cancer Center continues to serve growing numbers of patients. The Center's medical staff has grown to a total of six—one radiation oncologist and five medical oncologist/hematologists. To serve increasing numbers of cancer patients, the Pearlman Cancer Center was renovated to increase clinical square footage for radiation oncology in 2009. The infusion area and laboratory were expanded in late 2010. A complete facelift, including new paint, carpet and furniture was completed late 2011. The Infusion Room in the Center is undergoing expansion to add an additional 6,000 square feet.
To address the need for additional patient and employee parking, SGMC worked with the City to place partial funding for a parking deck on the Special purpose Local Option Sales tax referendum. In 2012, a new, 600 space, five-story parking deck will open on the Patterson Street side of the hospital. The deck will attach to the front Cafeteria hallway to provide more secure access to our facility.
On August 1, 2011, SGMC opened its new Imaging Center and Women's Imaging Center on the first floor or the Professional Building. The $22 million facility is the only one of its kind south of Macon. All major imaging modalities, including nuclear medicine, PET/CT and fluoroscopy are offered in the Imaging Center. The all-digital Women's Imaging Center features a private entrance and state-of-the-art digital mammography, ultrasound and bone density testing.
Smith Northview Hospital joined the SGMC family on September 1, 2011. The 45-bed facility located at 4280 North Valdosta Road, was purchased from for-profit Ameris Health for approximately $55 million. Smith Northview operates as a Campus of South Georgia Medical Center.
Just as generations of patients and families have passed through our doors, so have generations of affiliated physicians, clinical professionals, ancillary staff and community volunteers whose compassion and caring have guided us through challenges and changes. These individuals have been the heart and soul of SGMC. As the largest economic influence in Lowndes County, we know our success rests in the hands of those we serve. As we look to the future, we are confident our dedication and commitment to community service will continue to distinguish us for many more generations to come.