Albany State breaks ground for $8 million medical simulation center

Dec. 1—ALBANY — With a little help from some friends, Albany State University celebrated the coming nursing and health sciences simulation center with University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue among those who showed up don a hard hat and toss some dirt.

Speaking at the Wednesday groundbreaking at the university's West Campus, the former governor made a quip that such a facility would have saved the lives of numerous goats when he was in veterinary school, referring to the dissection of the animals for students in training.

"This is important, so important to the whole community and region," state Rep. Gerald Greene, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, said during a Wednesday telephone interview. "This is something the delegation put on their priority list to get this done.

"Our chancellor was talking about health care and economics, and the two will be combined with this facility. I think that's going to be a big plus for our community."

Speaking on the importance of the $8 million facility, Phoebe Putney Health System's Brian Church discussed the future needs for health care workers in the state and across the country.

"The Georgia Chamber reports that 122,000 health care jobs will need to be filled by 2025 in our state," the Phoebe CFO and chief administrative officer said. "Nationally, 80,000 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away in 2019 because of insufficient resources, not enough facilities or faculty to teach them."

Closer to home, Georgia ranks in the bottom 10% of U.S. states in terms of registered nurses per capita, lagging behind even Alabama and Mississippi.

"Locally here in southwest Georgia, hospitals, physician's offices, skilled nursing facilities, home health services, the health department, EMS services, medical transport services, as a combined group of health service providers, report hundreds of job openings and having at times to limit services due to not enough health care staffing," Church said. "The health care staff shortage is a real problem in our state and across the country, with many complex components.

"ASU has been a leader that is partnering with Phoebe and others on positive improvements and expansions to their programs to help meet the needs of local health care employers."

Also helping Albany State President Marion Fedrick, university staff and students celebrate the day were elected officials, including state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, Greene and state Reps. CaMia Jackson and Bill Yearta, and Representative-elect David Sampson. Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes, who serves on the Georgia Board of Regents, and other local elected and health care officials, also attended.