Court's ruling supports MCG

A legal fight over the construction of a new surgery center in Columbia County could be nearing an end.

On Nov. 24, the Court of Appeals of Georgia denied a request to appeal filed by University Hospital and Doctors Hospital Surgery Center. The two sued in an attempt to keep the Medical College of Georgia Physicians Practice Group Foundation from building a $34 million stand-alone surgery center in Columbia County.

The hospitals can still ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider and ask the Georgia Supreme Court for permission to appeal within 10 days, said the Physicians Practice Group's attorney Patrick Rice.

The planned surgery center, to be named MCG Medical Associates Ambulatory Center, has been a matter of contention since April 2008 when the physicians group began its quest to obtain a Certificate of Need. The certificate is required for any new institutional health-services provider.

The Department of Community Health, which rules on the Certificate of Need, initially approved the physicians group's request. After University and Doctors hospitals challenged the ruling, the department changed its position. The MCG physicians group then appealed and the department's ruling was reversed in the physicians group's favor.

University and Doctors hospitals then filed suit in Richmond County Superior Court. On Sept. 30, Judge James G. Blanchard ruled against the hospitals because he didn't find that the department's final decision to award the Certificate of Need was arbitrary. In his order, the judge wrote he could not substitute his judgment in place of the Department of Community Health.

The MCG physician group convinced the department that its ability to provide ambulatory surgery services for poor and low-income people in Columbia County and the surrounding area was an overriding reason to approve the center even though there is a surplus of such services.

The plans for the new center include three operating rooms, two procedure rooms, an imaging center with a CT scanner and a clinic with 45 exam rooms.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

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