New Panama City ER highlights medical community needs

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A sign of the times for Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, breaking ground on its new freestanding emergency room off Highway 231, just north of the Winn-Dixie in Bay County.

The new ER offers promise for the future. (WJHG/WECP)

"The demand for healthcare is starting to increase again, which is going to dictate more expansion by us and the physicians in the community," Gulf Coast Regional CEO Brad Griffin said.

As more medical options come to Bay County, the new Panama City ER is located in a growing area with growing needs.

"We don't have enough medical facilities to treat the patients that we're treating. This is just giving us another venue to try and get patients in more efficiently, and again closer to where they live," Gulf Coast Regional Chief Medical Officer George Helmrich said.

Staffing is still an issue for Gulf Coast Regional more than one year after Hurricane Michael. The new ER offers promise for the future.

"Like a lot of the facilities in the area, we're having trouble getting enough nurses and some of the support staff to fill it out. So we're hoping this is going to be a very attractive job," Helmrich said.

The new emergency room comes at a good time. Gulf Coast's Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Terence Kolb said we have a sicker population today.

"The earlier we can intervene, the healthier we're going to keep our community," Dr. Kolb said.

The facility will serve a vital need of the community: our health.

"As we have taken a hit here from an infrastructure standpoint in our community, we've needed this," Dr. Kolb said. "The reality is our community is, at this point, there's not enough medical services left standing after the storm."

The ER will have 11 rooms and is expected to be up and running by May 2020.

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