Deal's visit to the WellStar Cobb Hospital, at 3950 Austell Road on the corner of the East-West Connector, was to celebrate the new eight-bed unit that will offer comprehensive and long-term burn treatment and wound care.
Deal said a modern medical facility is an important element for people wanting to live and work in Cobb County and it enhances the desirability of the area.
The Austell hospital opened its inpatient burn unit May 21, and has already treated 100 people with a staff of 25 nurses and team members, according to the unit's manager, Becca Coley.
When it opened, there were only two patients assigned to the inpatient burn unit. But the unit is expected to admit more than 300 patients in its first year.
The renovations completed to open the unit were part of upgrades to various areas throughout the hospital this spring and the majority of initial funding went to train staff on wound care.
WellStar Cobb Hospital launched an outpatient burn clinic in 2006 in partnership with the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta.
Deal said both WellStar and the Joseph M. Still Burn Center are recognized around the world for their expertise as premier providers of health care.
After taking pictures with the staff during his tour of the unit, Deal said, "Everybody that had a part in this collaborative effort should be commended."
WellStar Cobb Hospital is providing the latest techniques for burn care, while also giving families a local site to receive high-quality care, according to burn surgeon Claus Brandigi.
Brandigi is the unit's medical director who worked at the Augusta center for 10 years before moving to the Cobb facility to be closer to his hometown of Atlanta.
The medical field is making strides in skin care, and the growing expertise in the field has led to better recovery for patients, "as long as they get into the right hands," Brandigi said.
Kem Mullens, president of WellStar Cobb, said the unit is dedicated to relieving pain, both physically and mentally, in patients who have been the victims of accidents, and whose unexpected injury could permanently disfigure them.
"Fire doesn't discriminate," Mullens said.
Once skin grafting is performed by surgeons at the WellStar Cobb hospital, a patient is moved upstairs to recover in the burn unit.
The typical injuries the unit treats are burns to the extremities or inhalation of toxic chemicals. Right now, the unit treats patients with burns on less than 40 percent of their bodies.
Although the Cobb hospital can treat and stabilize any burn victim, if the patient is under the age of 14 or has severe injuries, they are transported to the main treatment facility in Augusta.
"As the skill sets mature, we will take more severe cases," Mullens said.
Close to home
The burn unit has treated people from Alabama, Tennessee and all over Georgia.
"There is definitely a need here," Brandigi said.
Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn said as a member of the Cobb Regional Board she has seen wonderful additions to WellStar Health System, but is especially proud of the burn unit.
"It represents that we can treat people here in the area and region," said Vaughn.
The WellStar Cobb hospital has already grown as a result of the expanding community, but the alliance with the Joseph M. Still Burn Center reaches outside the WellStar Health System.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman Janie Maddox said the WellStar brand is about providing the best care.
The unit will allow the hospital's doctors and nurses to learn the craft of burn treatment and give WellStar more of an opportunity to garner the best talent in a new specialty.
To show how far WellStar has come, Deal was presented the book "Life Well-Lived," which highlights the health system's 20-year history in Cobb County.
"I think everyone knows the importance of having a state-of-the-art hospital in their community," Deal said.