By David Pendered
A new hospital is to be built and open in 2022 in Lumpkin County to serve an area just beyond the northern edge of the territory to be served by the soon-to-be consolidated Northside Hospital and Gwinnett Health Systems. During construction of the new facility, a closed hospital in Dahlonega is to reopen to protect a state certificate of approval of the type that some lawmakers say is outdated and should be eliminated.
A committee of the state House is to meet Thursday afternoon for the first time to discuss the legislation, House Bill 198.
The planned hospital in Lumpkin County is supported by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), a resident of Dahlonega and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s development authority, according to a report by gach.org, an organization comprised of not-for-profit hospitals:
- “I’ve driven and supported efforts to establish a new hospital in Lumpkin County and expand UNG’s [University of North Georgia] healthcare programs on the Dahlonega campus, in large part because of the role healthcare plays in today’s economics.
- “We’ve all seen the growth and prosperity a new hospital and associated development can bring, and we look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”
Gooch is not a sponsor of Senate Bill 74, a bill that’s identical to HB 198.
Both bills aim to eliminate the need for the state certificate to build or expand health facilities and services. A House study committee called for the elimination of the certificate as part of an effort to improve an aspect of the state’s health care delivery system that’s been unchanged since 1979.
Northeast Georgia Health System intends to build new hospital is to be built a few miles north of Dahlonega, near the community of Porter Springs. The 57-acre site along Ga. 400 is located near the intersection with Ga. 60, according to the report by gach.org. The number of beds hasn’t been determined.
While the new facility is being built, a shuttered hospital in Dahlonega is to be opened in July to protect the state certificate, according to the report.
That facility, Chestatee Regional Hospital, closed July 27, 2018, according to a report on its website. The hospital evidendly faced an array of financial woes and closed without offering any severance benefits to employees, which numbered around 200, according to a report in thedahloneganugget.com.
The certificate that’s under legislative review is issued by the state Department of Community Affairs. This certificate affirms the state has approved a purported need offered to the state to justify construction of a new hospital, the purchase of major medical equipment, or the renovation of an existing facility. Thus the name – certificate of need.
Here’s how the GACH report describes the proposal to protect the certificate of need that enables the Dahlonega hospital to serve as a place-holder for the planned hospital:
- “While offering services at the existing hospital site will preserve the Certificate of Need authority to operate a hospital in Lumpkin County and meet the short-term needs of the community, planning has also begun for a new replacement hospital facility to sit on 57 acres NGHS already owns along Georgia 400, near the intersection with Highway 60.
- “The new facility is tentatively scheduled to open in 2022 and expected to provide emergency services, inpatient medical/surgical care, imaging services and a focus on outpatient surgery.”
Nothing in the report mentions the planned merger of the Northside and Gwinnett health systems. The merger has been in process since 2015 and won federal approval Tuesday, according to a report published by georgiahealthnews.com.
Northside operates facilities in Sandy Springs, Canton and Cumming; Gwinnett operates hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth, according to the report.