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Auburn - city and university - welcomes EAMC's new emergency department off Shug Jordan Pkwy
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Auburn - city and university - welcomes EAMC's new emergency department off Shug Jordan Pkwy

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Lee County’s health care infrastructure will get a needed boost very soon.

Auburn city and university officials joined with East Alabama Medical Center Friday to cut the ribbon on Auburn Medical Pavilion, a new emergency department in Auburn University’s research and technology campus on Auburn’s south side.

“This is a very exciting day for us – our hospital family’s been looking forward to this day for a very long time,” said EAMC President and CEO Laura Grill to a crowd of about 100 people. “It seems like we’ve been talking about and planning this facility for many years. … We knew we wanted to be associated with the university and with the research and technology park, and this turned out to be the perfect location for this facility.”

The $33.7 million building, located on Shug Jordan Parkway just west of College Street, will house the 12-bed emergency department, an outpatient surgery center, in–house pharmacy and a breast health center – 84,000 square feet on three floors, all told.

Summer Storrs, the registered nurse who will run the new emergency room at the Auburn Medical Pavilion, showed off the facility to local media Friday. It will start with 12-beds and the capacity to handle 30 or so patients at a time, but there is room for expansion if necessary.

EAMC spokesman John Atkinson said the emergency department will initially handle walk-in traffic and reroute ambulances to the Opelika campus. It should open later this month, with the other services at the site available by the end of this summer.

Welcome additionAuburn Mayor Ron Anders thanked Grill and EAMC for its service to the community over the last 15 months of the coronavirus epidemic, then he pivoted to the benefits of opening a free-standing emergency department in Auburn.

Anders noted the $2 million the city of Auburn kicked in for site preparation and infrastructure for the Auburn Medical Pavilion, calling it one of the easiest decisions of his tenure as mayor.

“This location brings critical medical resources to all of Auburn’s residents,” Anders said. “It adds 100 new jobs to our community. Residents will now be able to seek 24-hour care right here in the city limits of Auburn for many emergency situations … (and) they’ll have additional options for procedures right here in our community.”

Jim Weyhenmeyer, Auburn University’s vice president for Research and Economic Development, said the pavilion would provide faculty and students more opportunities to do biomedical research.

Weyhenmeyer said it gives the university “… the opportunity to really think about how we might cross-pollinate between the university and this medical pavilion. If we do not take advantage of that, shame on us for not doing that.”

Back to businessGrill’s public appearances over the last year have been largely relegated to COVID-19 matters, as EAMC took the lead role in treating local patients and vaccinating citizens. Friday’s ceremony was welcome and, more importantly, coronavirus-free good news.

“It’s kind of nice,” a smiling Grill told the Opelika-Auburn News afterward. “… It’s a welcome change.”

Grill acknowledged that EAMC is still treating COVID-19 patients, but she welcomed the opportunity to get back to business as usual; indeed, the new Auburn site will relieve some of the pressure on the hospital’s Opelika and Valley emergency rooms.

“We’ve outgrown our current emergency room at the main hospital and we knew we needed to grow. We’re a bit landlocked there (in Opelika), so the concept of a freestanding emergency department was a great alternative to provide emergency access while Auburn is continuing to grow.”

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