Southern Regional partners with wildlife hospital

Fund-raising efforts are currently underway for the GROW Wildlife Hospital of Georgia, which, when constructed, will be the first specialized wildlife veterinary hospital in the state.

Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale recently began an exclusive partnership with GROW Wildlife, Inc., in which Southern Regional will donate its recently expired medicines and surplus medical equipment to the veterinary hospital.

According to Howard Valentine, director of materials management for Southern Regional, his hospital will make a donation of $325,000 worth of used medical equipment to the veterinary hospital. He said the equipment includes operating microscopes, mobile bed frames, surgical lights, gurneys, bandages, X-ray and Ultrasound equipment, endoscopes, operating monitors, and various medical supplies.

"As we evolve to better patient care, some of the older equipment is obsolete," Valentine said. "It is perfectly good stuff, except that the technology has changed ... It is equipment we would have to donate to a third-world country, or salvage in some sort of way. Right now, the equipment is in storage, awaiting some kind of disposal. It's [the partnership is] a win-win situation, because the equipment will still be in use, and it can free up space here."

Brenda Hudlow, executive director of GROW Wildlife, Inc., said the GROW Wildlife Hospital of Georgia project was started in 2003, in partnership with the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. She said that in 2007, Minerva Properties donated five acres of land near the Cochran Mill Nature Center and Arboretum in Palmetto for the new hospital, and that, currently, GROW Wildlife, Inc., is raising funds to begin the hospital's first phase of construction.

Hudlow said the new hospital will offer a level of veterinary care presently found only at The Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, Va., and will serve as a training hospital for UGA students.

"You go around to most veterinary facilities and they are designed for cats and dogs," Hudlow said. "This hospital is designed especially with native wildlife species in mind. We're designing it so that we can treat animals as big as a bear, or as small as a song bird. When animals are hurt because of human impact, they will be able to get the same specialized care a cat or dog would be able to get."

Hudlow said she was introduced to Southern Regional officials in 2008, during a fund-raiser for Grow Wildlife, Inc., sponsored by renown wildlife expert Jack Hanna. She said GROW Wildlife, Inc., ultimately needs to raise $3.5 million to build all three phases of the new hospital, and that Southern Regional's donation will help defray some of its upfront equipment costs.

"There are adjustable stools, operating tables, freezers, a necropsy table, irrigation and wash tables, surgical lights ... What they are donating is very usable and very generous," Hudlow said. "They are going to provide support to us on an ongoing basis for medical support and supplies. It will really help us in our capital campaign.

"It is disturbing to know how many animals are injured and killed, and how many animals are legally euthanized because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time," she added. "There are a lot of rehabilitation programs, but there is nothing like this [hospital]. What I want to happen is that we raise the standard of care for wildlife species, not only in Georgia, but in the United States."

Valentine said Southern Regional is pleased to assist Grow Wildlife, Inc., and believes the new veterinary hospital will be a valuable addition to the south-metro area.

"You can't treat a wounded eagle or a muskrat the same way you would treat a cat or dog," Valentine said. "There is a big demand for veterinarians with training in wildlife medicine, but there are no training centers for them. This will serve as a training facility for them. This facility will also be a place for referral for the whole eastern United States. We're definitely excited about helping them in any way."


On the web: www.growwildlife.org