Jennings gave an update on the more than 12,500-employee WellStar Health System during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Monday.
A health park is a collection of medical office buildings that offer outpatient services, such as imaging, laboratory, surgery center, and an urgent care center, combined with physician practice offices and other medical services such as a retail pharmacy, community and education rooms.
Before WellStar opened its $29 million Acworth park near the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Cedarcrest Road, area residents had to drive to the Kennestone Hospital campus for treatment.
Already, the Acworth facility has seen about 49,000 visits from patients. Visits are counted by the number of patient interactions, so that a visit to a physician counts as one visit, while that same patient moving on to the pharmacy counts as another.
The 70,000-square-foot Acworth facility has 10 physician practices.
“I actually talked to some of my old Marietta friends the other day who are running up there because they think it’s more convenient than the urgent care,” he said. “So that’s what it’s all about is getting you the distribution points where you can get in quickly and be taken care of. So this has exceeded all of our expectations, and because of that we’re still moving ahead with the three other developments.”
Jennings said he hopes to open the $73 million East Cobb Health Park at the intersection of Providence and Roswell roads in fall 2014.
He also has plans for a Smyrna-Vinings Health Park near the intersection of Atlanta Road and Cumberland Parkway, as well as a South Cherokee Health Park at the intersection of I-575 and Sixes Road. Pending board approval, they would open near the end of 2015 at a yet-to-be-determined cost.
‘Myths’ about WellStar
Jennings also addressed what he called four local myths about WellStar.
The first is that WellStar does not offer services to children.
In fact, WellStar employs 43 pediatricians and 50 private pediatricians on its staff, 71,000 children come to WellStar’s emergency rooms, and its pediatric offices see 222,000 visits, he said.
The second myth is that only health systems inside I-285 offer high quality care.
In fact, Kennestone’s open-heart surgery program has a three-star ranking, the highest rank that can be achieved in the U.S. and one that only 13 percent of open heart programs have attained.
For the last three years IMS, the ranking agency that ranks the top 100 integrated health delivery systems in the U.S., has ranked WellStar at No. 5.
The third myth is that Atlanta’s Grady Hospital treats the most emergency patients in Georgia.
The truth is WellStar’s Kennestone Hospital holds that distinction at 120,000 ER visits. While Grady is second, Wellstar’s Cobb Hospital is within 2,000 visits and will pass Grady in the next two to three years, he said.
“When you take all of WellStar, it is the largest provider of surgical services and emergency services in the state of Georgia compared to any other system,” Jennings said.
The fourth myth is that WellStar is “flush with cash,” Jennings said.
“There is a lot of money that flows in and flows out, but because we are a not-for-profit and we try to keep our charges 8 percent below the Atlanta hospitals, over time every excess dollar we have gets plowed back into this community for all the services as well as the health parks,” he said.
Jennings said WellStar’s mission is to be a world class health care system to the 1.4 million people in the five counties WellStar serves.
Lanie Shipp, executive director of the Town Center Area Community Improvement District, applauded the presentation.
“I think his relationship with the business community is very positive, and I’m glad to hear that we’re not separated anymore,” Shipp said. “He’s more of a community man, and health care certainly is such a big issue for all business people that his philosophy and his direction he’s taking WellStar in is just wonderful.”