University Hospital took the first concrete step toward building the first hospital in Columbia County, Georgia’s largest county without one.
University filed its letter of intent to build a short stay/acute care hospital with the Healthcare Facility Regulation Division of the Georgia Department of Community Health. The health care system must then file its application for a certificate of need within 30 days of that filing.
In the filing, University said it will seek to build a 100-bed, 250,000-square-foot facility at 447 N. Belair Road, which is on the Evans campus of the health care system. It pegged the cost at $143,940,000. All of this is in line with what University previously proposed to the Columbia County Commission.
University is one of three Augusta hospitals seeking to build a hospital in fast-growing Columbia County. Doctors Hospital and Georgia Regents Health System also submitted proposals to the commission, which originally planned to partner with one but instead chose to encourage all three to submit applications and will work with the one that gets the required certification.
All of the hospitals have signaled that they would seek a certificate of need through rarely used exceptions to the needs standards that health care facilities are normally required to meet to demonstrate the project would serve an existing need in the community. University has said it would seek an exception that allows projects if the county supplies 20 percent of the cost of the hospital.
Georgia Regents has said it would apply under exceptions for existing teaching hospitals or existing trauma centers. Doctors has said it would use the trauma center exception once it is certified as a trauma center, which it expects this summer.
If filed within a certain time period, the state is likely to bundle the applications together and rule on them jointly. University and Doctors were previously shot down last year when seeking separately to build a freestanding emergency department in the county because the state said the county was adequately served by emergency services at the hospitals in Augusta. All of the applicants have acknowledged that there are already a plethora of beds in Augusta that would make meeting the need standard difficult.