In just over a year, the city of Auburn is expected to have a new emergency room facility open to Auburn University and the general public.
Groundbreaking for the new facility is planned for Sept. 12.
A partnership between Auburn University, the Auburn Research and Technology Park Foundation, East Alabama Medical Center and the city of Auburn will provide the new facility at the intersection of Shug Jordan Parkway and Camp Auburn Road.
“I think it’s very rare that a city and a university have as many partnerships as we do, as Auburn and Auburn University does,” Auburn city manager James Buston said. “And this is just one more of a long list of partnerships that over the years we have engaged in to the benefit of the members of our community.”
While located on campus, Mayor Ron Anders said that the new medical facility will be open to everyone.
The city will be providing $2 million toward the construction of the access road. Additionally, Auburn University and the Auburn Research and Technology Park Foundation will be contributing $11 million. This access road will connect Shug Jordan Parkway and Camp Auburn Road.
Currently there is a dirt road located there, but Anders said that the road cannot support the equipment needed for construction.
The site for the facility is being cleared, Larry Fillmer, executive director of the research and technology foundation, said.
Meeting the need
“We as a city have been always interested in EAMC having a facility in our community,” Anders said. “We are one of, if not the fastest growing community in Alabama.
"And we feel like that the access of quality healthcare to our citizens, much less a campus of 30,000 students and faculty and employees -- it’s important for us to have a local access for quality medical care, emergency care, outpatient care. And so as a city, this has been a part of our vision long-term for Auburn that we would eventually have health care located in our city limits.”
EAMC will own the facility and will be solely responsible for the construction of the new medical buildings.
“Our only medical facility really is EAMC over in Opelika, and so another facility to offer services in the Auburn community, we felt was really an amenity to the citizens of Auburn,” Buston said.
The new facility will provide services to Auburn that residents previously had to travel to Opelika to receive, such as: endoscopy, radiology, ophthalmology and orthopedics, among others.
Fillmer said that this also will allow people outside of Auburn, such as those in Macon County, to have a facility that is closer to reach.
“There’s just the practical side of, if you have an accident, if somebody’s hurt, you’ve got a facility closer to you, that you can go and seek medical care,” Anders said. “That could be very sensitive if it’s a very dire situation.”
In addition to the convenience that the new EAMC facility will bring to Auburn, Anders said new jobs will be created.
“We’re very excited about up to 100 new, great jobs that will be coming to our community that will obviously provide a great service," he said. Also, the "occupational tax that we will receive from their payroll will be something that provides services to all of our community.”
The Auburn Research and Technology Park Foundation has been working to create a more medically minded Auburn for a while, Anders said, establishing new facilities on campus.
“The idea is to really create synergy in and around health, the health care profession and the health sciences,” Anders said.
As part of this collaboration, the university will now have another point of learning for its students. Medical students can expect to spend time in this new EAMC facility, especially since it is so close to Auburn’s main campus, he said.
Fillmer said the university is focusing on health and life sciences.
One aspect of this could be through telemedicine, which involves helping to provide medical care to those who can’t reach a doctor or hospital normally, Fillmer said.
Auburn is a rapidly expanding city, and the new EAMC facility is not the only project in the works. The new Gogue Performing Arts Center is set to open later this month.
“This obviously speaks to the kind of community that Auburn has grown to be,” Anders said. “A community that can support a big-time performing arts center, a community that can now support a second campus of a major medical center. And when I say community, I certainly include the university.”
Coming in 2020
The construction of the new EAMC facility is expected to be completed in about 15 months, finishing around the end of October 2020, Fillmer said.
“This just looked like an opportunity that could come about,” Fillmer said. “We knew that the hospital was in need of expanding their operating room capacity and the freestanding emergency department capability, so it was sort of a mutual need.”
East Alabama Medical Center said it would release more details closer to the groundbreaking in September.