And then there were three again.
The boards of Georgia Regents Health System and Georgia Regents Medical Center voted Friday to support management in its pursuit of a “health campus” in Columbia County. University Hospital and Doctors Hospital had previously said they will continue with their plans to seek a Certificate of Need to build a hospital in the county, the state’s largest without one. The Columbia County Commission earlier this week voted to endorse all three proposals in seeking that required state permission to build a hospital, rather than choosing one to partner with.
During an hour-long executive session, the boards reviewed the previous plan for a $280 million campus with a 144-bed hospital and medical office building as well as the financial projections the health system provided the county. But Sean Vincent, vice president of partnerships, international healthcare and strategic affiliations, would not commit to those numbers and said “we’re evaluating the entire project as a whole” and whether parts of it would be phased in.
“We’re going to continue to move forward but we have to evaluate the timeline,” he said.
Earlier this week, University said it would continue with plans for a $144 million, 100-bed hospital and Doctors said it was sticking with its plan for a $150 million 108-bed hospital. Because of the large number of licensed beds at Augusta hospitals, officials have acknowledged that the hopes for Columbia County getting a hospital rest on three exceptions to the need standards. Those are if it is a “sole community provider” where the county provides 20 percent of the cost of construction, or if the proposal comes from an existing teaching hospital or from an existing trauma center.
University would apply under the 20 percent exception but would cover the county’s share in the form of tax payments made in advance. Georgia Regents could use either the trauma or teaching exceptions without county funds. Doctors has said it would apply under the trauma exception after it is granted trauma status this summer but might consider applying under the 20 percent exception to speed up the process.
Should rival CON applications appear at the Georgia Department of Community Health around the same time, the state would likely join them and consider them together.
“We’re still committed to serving the citizens of Columbia County and meeting their health and wellness needs,” Vincent said.