Hughston Clinic Showcase

Hughston Clinic invests $4 million in

outpatient surgical center in north Columbus


By Tony Adams, Ledger Enquirer

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Hughston Clinic -- looking to meet the growing demand in treating bad joints, hands and feet -- said Thursday it has invested $4 million into a new outpatient surgical center off Veterans Parkway in north Columbus.

Aptly named Hughston Surgical Center, the 9,000-square-foot facility was constructed atop the magnetic resonance imaging facility at the rear of the main clinic. It will focus on less-complicated outpatient operations such as arthroscopic knee and carpal tunnel procedures on the hands.

“As with every facet of health care, and looking at how we can all can become cost conscious but deliver high-quality care, a lot of orthopedics are moving to an outpatient setting,” said Hughston Clinic Chief Executive Officer Mark Baker. “This is really the final piece of our organization.”



The center, open about two weeks, will handle orthopedic injuries to knees, shoulders, elbows, hips, feet and ankles. More serious cases, such as knee and hip replacements, will take place at Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital on Riverchase Drive in Phenix City, the clinic said.

“The advantage of a surgery center, No. 1, is that you can really provide the patients a much tighter schedule in terms of when you’re going to do things,” said Dr. Kurt Jacobson, an orthopedic surgeon who performs a lot of arthroscopic knee procedures. “It used to be everybody showed up at 6 o’clock at a regular hospital to have surgery, even though your surgery might not be until 4 in the afternoon. And they sort of made you sit around all day.”

And before now, the 21 surgeons associated with Hughston Clinic would do more minor procedures at Jack Hughston Memorial, which was purchased by the physician group in February 2008. The hospital has six operating rooms and one procedure room.

“This will relieve some of the pressure on the hospital and allow some of the doctors that do more inpatient surgeries there, such as joint replacements and spine (work), to basically increase their utilization over there,” said Jacobson, who also is vice president of Columbus-based Hughston Clinic.

The new surgical center will have 15 employees, including four registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses, two surgical technicians, and several administrative positions, including a billing and coding analyst and desk clerks.

The facility includes two operating rooms with state-of-the-art surgery and arthroscopic equipment, an eight-bed ward for patient preparation before and after procedures, and waiting and anesthesia rooms. The clinic noted its surgery suites will feature large windows with views of the outdoors, meant to calm patients undergoing procedures.

Hughston Clinic, located at 6262 Veterans Parkway, was founded in 1949 by the late Jack C. Hughston, a renowned orthopedic surgeon best known for treating sports injuries, including top athletes. The clinic has nine offices in Georgia and Alabama, with 21 physicians combined staffing them. Of those, 17 are part-owners in the medical organization.

Hughston Clinic and its orthopedic expertise is a major draw from outside the Chattahoochee Valley area. In the first six months of this year, patients from 490 counties were treated by the medical group, Baker said. A third of its patients were from this area.

The new surgical center is expected to handle up to 2,500 cases each year, said Baker, calling that a conservative number. Registered nurse manager Schrissa Saine also said five additional staffers could be added as surgical volume increases.

“Columbus is growing,” Baker said. “It’s a very good time for Columbus, and we’re glad that we were able to meet a need and match that growth.”

The competition for the new facility includes the St. Francis Orthpaedic Institute on Manchester Expressway and a Surgery Center on Weems Road.

But Jacobson said it’s not about taking market share from anyone, and that there are more patients than doctors and facilities in the high-growth orthopedic treatment sector, part of which is being led by the aging Baby Boomer generation.

“If you look at just our hospital alone, we don’t in any way have enough capacity in terms of facility to handle all of that volume,” the doctor said. “Our operating rooms across the river run at a very high capacity.”

Hughston Clinic’s main office is about 30,000 square feet, with the entire medical group employing 550 people. Baker estimated the economic impact of the clinic and hospital at $20 million-plus annually. Aside from payroll, that includes patients and family members traveling to Columbus and Phenix City for treatment, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and doing some shopping while they are here.

Hughston Hospital, located adjacent to Hughston Clinic, is owned by Columbus Regional Healthcare System, which also operates The Medical Center, Doctors Hospital and the John B. Amos Cancer Center near downtown Columbus.