Doctors Hospital files to build in Columbia County

Monday, June 16, 2014 6:58 PM
Last updated 8:21 PM
  • Follow Health

Claiming it is already the “community hospital” for Columbia County, Doctors Hos­pital of Augusta filed Monday to build a hospital in the county, the third Augusta hospital to do so.

If the Georgia Department of Com­­mu­nity Health deems all three applications complete, it is likely to join them and rule on their applications for a Certificate of Need together.

Doctors Hospital wants to build a 100-bed, $140 million hospital on 25 acres it has under contract at 745 North Belair Road in Evans. The property is not zoned for that purpose, but Doctors claimed it has “met with representatives of Columbia County who have indicated that they support rezoning of the property. Based on these discussions, Doctors Hospital anticipates that once the property is acquired, there should be no problems receiving the proper zoning for this project.”

County Administrator Scott Johnson said they had met with the hospital and told them they support the rezoning.

“But of course it’s got to go through the process,” he said. “We can’t make anybody any promises or guarantees on rezoning.”

The proposal would rely on 20 percent financing from the county, which would come from a special purpose local option sales tax up for a vote in November. The funding would help the hospital get around the required standards to demonstrate need for those hospital beds.

Doctors Hospital would reduce the number of beds at its current location by 100 to make the proposal “bed neutral,” the application says. Both University Hospital and Georgia Regents Medical Cen­ter said they would do the same with their main campuses if they build a Columbia County hospital.

Operating since 1973 less than a mile from the county line, Doctors Hospital said that it was the first hospital to recognize the need to serve Columbia County and that its Evans Surgery Center was “the first major health care facility in the county” in 1989, although University Hospital bought its Evans campus a few years earlier.

Doctors Hospital also said it was the first to file to build a free-standing emergency department in the county. University soon followed and the state joined the applications and denied both, saying the county was adequately served by facilities in Augusta.

Doctors Hospital said its proposal would have a number of advantages for the county. It said it would employ 511 full-time positions with an estimated $39 million in salary and benefits and generate $1.5 million in property tax.

University, while a nonprofit, said it would not file for the property-tax exemption.

GRMC is the only applicant to file for exceptions that do not require funding from the county because it can meet the exceptions for an existing trauma center or as an existing teaching hospital. However, it would take the 20 percent funding if that is the only exception the state department is willing to grant.

Shawn Vincent, the vice president of partnerships for Geor­gia Regents Health System, said if that became the option, the health system would work with the county on “any paybacks and structure of the funding prior to accepting money from the county.”

The 20 percent exception has been used twice before in the state, but both times to justify a larger bed expansion in the hospital than the state would normally grant, which the state allowed because the counties involved paid their share of the cost.

The next step for the Au­gusta hospitals is for the state department to determine whether all of the voluminous applications are complete. If it makes that determination, it generally has 120 days to review and render a decision.

Comments (3) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1 06/17/14 - 06:49 am
No Contribution

Kind of interesting that all of the hospitals are NOW saying they won't demand a county contribution.

Tom Corwin
Tom Corwin 06/17/14 - 12:45 pm

Actually, two of the hospitals would depend upon a 20 percent contribution from Columbia County and the third, Georgia Regents, would take it if that is the only exception the state will allow.

Riverman1 06/17/14 - 01:19 pm
Tom, you're right

Tom, you're right. But University has that plan to pay the state back immediately with future tax payments so money doesn't actually change hands in that case, I thought. I also thought Doctors was going to use the trauma center exception, but from your article it now appears they are going after the 20% county contribution. It's also interesting that Doctors and University say they will cut mega beds downtown.

Butterman 06/17/14 - 02:15 pm
I insist on Doctor's Hospital

Best care. Best facilities. Best staff. Going to GRU hospital is like going to a hospital in the former Soviet Union.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Jury convicts man who killed Vernon Forrest
Seven years after Augusta boxer Vernon Forrest was shot and killed during an armed robbery,  an Atlanta jury has now convicted the shooter of murder.