By Maria Saporta
Thanks to a multi-million dollar gift from philanthropist Bernie Marcus, Grady Memorial Hospital opened its new and expanded Level 1 trauma center Friday — transforming the formerly dingy emergency facilities into a brightly-lit, modern and state-of-the-art center.
That is the latest project that’s part of a $325 million campaign to upgrade and improve the largest public hospital in the State of Georgia. The fundraising effort so far totals nearly $319 million, meaning about another $6 million needs to be raised.
One of the major donors to the campaign was Marcus, who contributed $20 million to Grady for two major projects. Just 18 months ago, Grady held a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center. That was followed by Friday’s ribbon-cutting of the $7 million Marcus Trauma Center.
“It’s an addition to this hospital that’s so important,” Marcus said in an interview before the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Level 1 trauma center. “I don’t know how they kept that designation. It was a pig-sty. It was over-loaded, and it was under-funded.”
Despite the condition of the physical environment, Marcus said Grady always had first quality medical personnel and hospital staff.
The renovated and expanded trauma center will make taking care of seriously-injured patients much more efficient and accessible.
“It’s going to save lives,” said Marcus, who said that was an important criteria in making his gift to the center. “It almost assures you of getting better, faster care if you are in an accident.”
Grady now will have seven trauma bays compared to four before the renovation, and it also has added eight minor to moderate trauma rooms. In a mass casualty situation, it will permit two patients per trauma bay, proving space for a total of 16 patients.. Grady treats about 3,000 major trauma cases each year, and its emergency room expects to have handled 105,000 visits this year.
Pete Correll, chairman of the Grady board, said the hospital has come a long way in the last several years, but there’s still much more to be done.
“This is a journey; it is not a destination,” Correll said.
Asked if he would be asking Marcus for other donations to Grady, Correll said: “Bernie knows I’ll be back. He’s not naive.”
In all seriousness, Correll said that the greatest contribution that Marcus made was not the financial gift but the right to put his name on both centers. Marcus, co-founder of the Home Depot, has become one of Atlanta’s leading philanthropists.
“Getting the money was easy,” Marcus said. “Getting the name was hard. If we could get Bernie to give his name, it would send a message that Grady has changed. That’s a big deal — being visible in his investment.”
Marcus acknowledged that naming the centers after him was the tough sell.
“I have my name on too many places already. I hate it. We prefer to stay anonymous,” Marcus said, adding that the topic created “a big fight” on the Marcus Foundation board.
Grady Hospital’s new CEO John Haupert said among his priorities, he would like to “intensify our cardiology capabilities” as well as medical services for woman and infants.
Asked if he would be making another gift to the hospital, Marcus jokingly said: “Give me a chance to breathe.”
But it is obvious that Marcus has become vested in Grady Hospital.
“Survival of this hospital is critical for this city and state,” said Marcus, who added that his foundation receives about 15 requests for donations each day. “There are a lot of priorities, and we look for the best returns. They are all good requests; and they are all important.”