City along the Alabama-Georgia border offers a vast array of specialized services close to home.
When it comes to health care in Columbus, residents benefit from a wide array of specialties and services to keep even the most complex care close to home.
St. Francis-Emory Healthcare and Piedmont Columbus Regional, two major health systems rooted in the community, are complemented by other providers targeted to specific populations.
These include the Robert S. Poydasheff Veterans Affairs Clinic, serving approximately 25,000 enrolled veterans in the Chattahoochee Valley; West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, providing inpatient mental health and forensic services across 71 counties; Hughston Clinic, dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions; and Valley Healthcare, a community-based health center offering essential services.
Piedmont Columbus Regional
With two facilities in Muscogee County, Piedmont Columbus Regional offers access to the resources of Georgia’s largest health care system. Its 583-bed Midtown campus is the region’s only Level II trauma center, boasts a Level III neonatal intensive care unit and is designated a regional perinatal center. The renowned John B. Amos Cancer Center, accredited by the Commission on Cancer, provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary cancer care.
The 100-bed Northside campus, a rapidly growing full-service hospital, includes a 20-bed emergency department, inpatient rehabilitation and intensive care units. It provides a host of elective surgeries from orthopedics to gynecology, neurosurgery and more.
“In short, we can provide advanced medical care typically seen in large cities, with the high quality Piedmont is known for,” says Dr. Christopher Edwards, the chief medical officer.
“In short, we can provide advanced medical care typically seen in large cities, with the high quality Piedmont is known for.”
Dr. Christopher Edwards, chief medical officer at Piedmont Columbus Regional
Opened in 1950, St. Francis-Emory serves west Georgia and east Alabama with 376 beds on two campuses.
“We strive each and every day to make our communities healthier,” says Melody Trimble, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “As one of the area’s essential providers of health care and as a large employer, our hospital is proud to call this community home.”
St. Francis-Emory offers the only open-heart surgery program in the Chattahoochee Valley and is the only facility to provide specialty cardiac services, including Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG), valve replacement and repair, and aortic aneurysm repair.
The hospital has earned a national reputation as a Level I emergency cardiac care center, and certifications for acute coronary syndrome care and primary stroke care from The Joint Commission.
A Heart For Service
Beyond the care provided within their walls, both Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare extend their reach into the wider community.
A not-for-profit system, Piedmont Columbus Regional supports programs to increase access to care and boost the health of the community. For 2020 and 2021, it provided $103.8 million in community benefit, including a mobile unit, bringing place-based services to low-income and other vulnerable populations.
In addition to taxes paid, charity care and uncompensated care, St. Francis-Emory Healthcare’s community benefits program invested nearly $819,000 for 2021.
This includes its partnership with local Victory Mission, providing classes and events on topics such as nutrition, financial management, heart health, diabetes and exercise.
Training the Next Generation
Both systems are investing in the next generation of providers through medical residency training programs. In 2022, St. Francis-Emory Healthcare launched its three-year internal medicine residency program with The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This community-based program will produce board-certified internal medicine physicians to serve Columbus and the surrounding areas in both inpatient hospital and outpatient settings.
“The internal medicine residency program is a wonderful opportunity to start a journey and tradition of academic excellence alongside St. Francis-Emory Healthcare’s record of clinical excellence,” says Dr. Jagdeep Singh, the chief medical officer. “And it provides the communities we serve with increased access to high-quality health care, which can only improve health outcomes for the members of our community. The teaching program is a key component of the long-term future of the hospital.”
Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Midtown campus is home to a long-standing family medicine residency program and will be a primary teaching site for the new Mercer University School of Medicine campus in Columbus.
“Having the ability to provide all the medical services patients need in a town the size of Columbus is unique,” Edwards says. “And now, having a four-year medical school with Mercer will make Columbus an academic center. As a provider, to have all of this in a city as livable as Columbus makes our town a destination for health care.”
New School of Medicine
More than a year after its December 2021 ribbon cutting, Macon-based Mercer University’s new School of Medicine campus in Columbus is already making a lasting impact, especially for communities that are traditionally underserved.
The School of Medicine’s new building is situated along the Chattahoochee RiverWalk in Columbus and consists of 77,000 square feet of classrooms, research facilities and office space.
School officials say the Columbus campus will eventually graduate about 60 new physicians each year, and the hope is that many of those new MDs will practice medicine that will help serve Southwest Georgia’s most rural and underserved areas.
“If you live in counties where you have to drive 30 or 40 miles for care, for many people that’s impossible,” says Jean Sumner, dean of Mercer University School of Medicine in a press release. “We’re committed to helping Columbus grow as a medical referral hub while bringing community-based services that are second-to-none to the small communities in Southwest Georgia.”
Statistics say Southwest Georgia contains 22 of the state’s 40 counties that are identified as having the worst health outcomes statewide for its citizens. Almost all of those underserved counties have no primary care facility or very little access to care.
Mercer officials say locating a medical school campus in Columbus was especially important because Columbus is the second-largest city in Georgia. Partnering with Mercer University in the School of Medicine are local hospitals St. Francis and Piedmont Columbus Regional.
– Staff writer Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.
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