Southeast Georgia Health System Celebrates Topping Off of New Surgical Services and Inpatient Tower

September 24, 2019

Southeast Georgia Health System hosted a topping off ceremony on Friday, Sept. 20, to celebrate the structural phase completion of its new surgical services and inpatient tower. Following a brief ceremony, a white steel beam, adorned with an American flag, a small evergreen tree and hundreds of signatures, was lifted into place at the top of the new Inpatient Tower.

A topping off, or sometimes called a topping out, ceremony has European origins but is also part of American construction and building culture. Originally, structures were created out of timber and the last beam added was adorned with a small tree. The tree symbolized the structure going up without a loss of life and is a symbol of good luck for future occupants.


A modern topping off also includes an American flag—a tradition that dates back to 1919 and started by U.S. steel ironworkers during the “American Plan Period,” showing loyalty to flag and country. The steel beam is usually painted white and includes the signatures of the construction workers and those attending the ceremony. Its white color symbolizes the skilled craftsmanship and labor to create the beam and construct a building.


“Today’s event represents a major milestone of our Master Renovation and Expansion Project, which remains on schedule to receive our first patients in the fall of 2021,” said Michael D. Scherneck, president & CEO. “I would like to thank our medical staff, team members, volunteers and donors for sharing our vision of being the region’s health care provider and employer of choice. And I am especially grateful for the foresight and support provided by the Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital Authority and the Southeast Georgia Health System, Inc. board of directors. It takes bold leadership on their part to address the needs of today and to balance that with the long-term needs of our community.”


The Health System began the $140 million Master Renovation and Expansion Project of its Brunswick Campus in 2018. With more than 70,000 square feet of new construction and more than 100,000 square feet of renovations, the project will help to ensure the Brunswick hospital can continue to meet health care needs as the communities it serves grow and patient volumes increase.


“We’ve seen dramatic growth in patient volumes in recent years, and we’re dedicated to providing the services our communities need,” said Robert C. Turner, chair of the Southeast Georgia Health System, Inc. Board of Directors. “State of the art facilities like this are clearly what’s needed. And, along with the construction happening now, new advanced technologies and treatments will expand the services we currently offer.”


In addition to a new patient entry canopy, the expansion of the Emergency Care Center (ECC) will add 15 exam and treatment rooms for a total of 50, including two trauma rooms. To accommodate the new rooms, the ECC will expand by more than 12,000 square feet. Renovations to the remaining 22,900 square feet will provide better patient and staff flow.


“Our sincere appreciation to the Thomas & Mildred Beach Trust for their generous gift of $4.7 million to help pay for the enhancements to the Emergency Care Center,” said Scherneck.


The expansion of the second floor (overlooking Parkwood Drive) will accommodate the new Surgical Services Tower, with 16 new operating rooms, endoscopy suites, a post-anesthesia care unit, and pre- and post- recovery bays. The existing Surgery Department renovations will accommodate new Central Sterile Processing and support areas.


The new inpatient floor will include 32 private, spacious patient rooms, each of which will include a window. Patient room design features will maximize privacy for the patient and family, visually and acoustically, and promote patient independence. Nursing station designs will minimize travel distances between rooms, increase observation/visual control and improve communication.


The project also includes plans to renovate many of the existing inpatient rooms on the St. Simons Tower to increase space, comfort and privacy.


To accommodate the increased square footage and additional patient care services areas, more energy efficient upgrades to the Central Energy Plant and a new mechanical penthouse are included in the expansion. Entrances and parking will be updated as well, including a new main entry to the Health System, a two-story lobby and covered parking at the Parkwood Drive entrance.


“Southeast Georgia Health System has transformed in the last 25 years into one of the best health care systems in the state, and this project is the next step in that evolution, really a revolution, of building one of the finest hospitals in Georgia,” said Valerie A. Hepburn, Ph.D., chair of the Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital Authority. “A health care system is the center of economic development and prosperity in a community. You don’t attract new businesses, you don’t attract retirees, you don’t retain and grow organizations without a great health care system. So we’re central to what makes Glynn County and Brunswick, and our neighbors in Camden, Brantley, Charlton, McIntosh and Wayne, really thrive.”


The Master Renovation and Expansion Project is possible through tax-exempt revenue bonds and the generosity of donors. In addition to the Thomas & Mildred Beach Trust $4.7 million to help pay for the ECC expansion, the Health System Foundation committed $4 million to the project and is conducting a 20-20 Vision Campaign with a goal of raising an additional $4 million, for a total of $8 million. To date, more than $5 million has been raised, which includes a $500,000 donation from the Health System’s Volunteer Services.


“We’re really excited about the future of our health system,” Scherneck said. “This project is an example of our commitment to meeting the future needs of our community.”


Scherneck added, “A special thank you to our construction team for working diligently day in and day out to minimize the level of disruptions and noise that our patients experience. Their accomplishments are noteworthy, particularly in light of the interruption caused by Hurricane Dorian. And I would also like to thank them for maintaining appearance of the worksite and being respectful of our neighbors.”


For more information about the 20-20 Vision Campaign, visit // or, or call 912-466-3360.


About Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit health system comprised of two acute care hospitals, two long term care facilities, three immediate care centers, five family medicine centers and numerous employed physician practices. The Health System has multiple outpatient specialty care centers, including the only CyberKnife® Program in the region and one of only four in Georgia, and a Cancer Care Center accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. For more information, call 855-ASK-SGHS (855-275-7447) or visit