Doctors, University vie for emergency room in Evans

Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 8:06 PM
Last updated 10:09 PM
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Doctors and Uni­versity hospitals are vying for state permission to build a free-standing emergency de­partment in Columbia Coun­ty, the state’s largest county without one, officials said.

The state has never allowed such a center before, though South Carolina and about half the other states do, a University official said.

A decision last month by the Georgia Department of Com­­munity Services to shoot down a similar proposal in Walton County might not signal doom for Columbia County’s proposal.

Doctors Hospital is proposing a $9.8 million, 12-bed facility with a room to handle trauma on North Belair Road across from Marshall Square; University is putting forth a $9.67 million plan for an 18-bed facility with five trauma rooms on its Evans campus off North Belair Road.

Both sides concede it is likely the state will pick only one, if either, of the plans.

Unlike adding hospital beds, in which the state has a formula to calculate how many an area needs, there is no strict criterion and it will be up to regulators to decide whether there is a general need for the services, said Ed Burr, University’s vice president of legal affairs.

“It is theoretically possible they could find a general need for both facilities. Probably not,” he said. “They may find a general need for neither and deny them both.”

“I would be very shocked if it was both (approved),” Doctors CEO Doug Welch said. If that were the case, it would hinder the state’s ability to limit the number of the centers and they would spring up all over the Atlanta area, he said.

Because the applications are similar and were filed within 30 days of each other, the state has “joined” the applications, indicating it will decide the fate of both at the same time, with a deadline of Jan. 25.

The hospitals said that their emergency rooms are overflowing and that they have a compelling need for their free-standing expansion.

Welch said Doctors has seen “phenomenal growth” in ER patients over the past few years, seeing almost 50,000 last year, up 12 percent from the previous year.

“We’re out of space; we’re out of treatment rooms to run our emergency room efficiently,” he said. “It’s very difficult for us to expand here on campus, so let’s take it to where the people are.”

University is also limited by its downtown campus, and each of the four expansion scenarios it presented the state would be double to four times as expensive as the Evans option, Burr said.

“Our (emergency depart­ment) is just swamped,” he said. “We don’t have any way to expand it, realistically, cost-effectively.”

Nor is there a way to avoid issues such as limited parking.

University looked across the Savannah River, Burr said, but was told “only a South Carolina hospital could have a free-standing ED in South Carolina.”

Through Nov. 30, Uni­ver­sity’s ER had seen 70,222 patients, well beyond the 67,668 it had budgeted and putting it on pace for at least 10 percent growth over the previous year, spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said.

Before putting in its application in September, Doctors was told the state would be willing to consider it, Welch said.

The state denied an application Dec. 19 by Eastside Medical Cen­ter in Snellville to open a free-standing ER in nearby Walton County.

In that application, two other hospitals – including the community hospital in Walton – and residents opposed the plan, Burr said. East­side might also have failed to demonstrate it had exhausted the ability to expand its ER, he said. Those factors aren’t germane to this case, Burr said.

“We spent a lot of time and effort trying to come up with alternative plans (before choosing Evans),” he said.

Both sides said the hospital that is not picked is likely to appeal, which Burr said could drag the process out a year.

Columbia County officials said Monday they know there could be a fight ahead.

“It’s so adversarial they’re going to go after it hammer and tongs,” Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen said.

“We’ve already sent a letter to (the state) saying we’d support anybody,” com­mis­sion Chairman Ron Cross said. “We need that. Doctors isn’t far away, but we need our own facility out here.”

Free-standing ERs have been a trend for HCA, the hospital chain that includes Doc­tors. The company has 24 now and seven in development, Welch said. He opened one when he was a CEO in Texas before coming to Au­gusta, so “we have both the national and local expertise to do this,” Welch said.

Staff writer Barry Paschal contributed to this article.

Comments (23) Add comment
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Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 01/07/13 - 09:12 pm
9
4
An ER in the Evans area is

An ER in the Evans area is very much needed. I hope they choose University Hospital over Doctors.

Little Lamb
47950
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Little Lamb 01/07/13 - 09:55 pm
8
2
Experience

My experience is that Doctors Hospital gives third-rate patient care for premium prices. I second Willow's motion.

Just My Opinion
6069
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Just My Opinion 01/07/13 - 10:58 pm
3
1
I think Doctor's has the

I think Doctor's has the edge. Already set up in the spot, like UH, but has more experience with free-standing units. Not very convincing, but it's more of a decision-maker than how any of us personally feel about either hospital. And as long as we're voting, I vote for Doctor's...the entire staff that my family has ever dealt with has been exemplary, except for one "pretty boy" doctor. I'm just glad we might be getting one.

Riverman1
90455
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Riverman1 01/08/13 - 04:50 am
5
4
I wonder how Richmond County

I wonder how Richmond County feels about University going to Columbia Cty with an emergency department? The hospital is owned by Richmond Cty and managed via the foundation. Of course that hasn't stopped them from branching out over other counties in the past. I wonder when the next Hospital Authority members will be appointed by this new Commission?

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 01/08/13 - 05:53 am
5
0
Much needed in that area

Much needed in that area especially for the neighboring small counties that border Columbia.

seenitB4
93610
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seenitB4 01/08/13 - 06:51 am
3
2
That says it all...

Let's take it where the people are.....

Great idea --you need it--the people want it---& more will come .....watch out Appling......you're next!

Rob Pavey
552
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Rob Pavey 01/08/13 - 07:33 am
4
0
which one would contribute the most to Columbia County?

I wonder which facility would generate the most in property taxes for the county?

Little Lamb
47950
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Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 07:56 am
3
0
Property Taxes?

That would depend on the value the tax assessor put on the parcel(s), wouldn't it?

seenitB4
93610
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seenitB4 01/08/13 - 08:07 am
6
2
The need is there

Many oldies are moving into Columbia county....(I won't say why or where they are coming from because someone will get his feathers ruffled & put a lot of repeated posts on here)...:):)

I know for a fact my parents had to call 911 a lot......so much so I think they got more employees ...hahah.....that is when they lived off Evans lock ...I bet some know exactly where they lived too....:)
My sis lives off Evans lake too said she heard on the radio one am driving to work that the emts would get additional employees...she said she burst out lol cause she knew mom & dad had "something" to do with that...

OpenCurtain
10049
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OpenCurtain 01/08/13 - 08:18 am
3
1
Millions to spend and expand ?

But we here every year how bad Univ. Hospital is doing and needs more Taxpayer $$ to cover care and Help?

soapy_725
43949
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soapy_725 01/08/13 - 08:19 am
0
0
Everyone seems to care about rising healthcare costs
Unpublished

Well the proliferation of drug stores has not reduced the cost of drugs. The proliferation of doctor offices has not reduced the cost. We blame the government for spending what it doesn't have, but heaven forbid if we do not have all of the facilities, spas, entertainment, etc. at the entrance to every neighborhood.

Recently UH execs said they needed to encourage more elective surgery and "follow up surgeries. Why have hospitals become ambulance chasers?

If you want an ER next to your house, you must have a serious fear of death. Maybe its just a personal convenience? It will not be cheap. The added overhead and extra equipment will cost more.

Lets start with a doctor, hospital, ambulance and drug store for every one hundred people. And a resident priest or chaplain if all else fails. We could do a map.

Little Lamb
47950
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Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 08:27 am
4
2
Little White Lie

From the story:

Doctors CEO Doug Welch said . . . “We’re out of space; we’re out of treatment rooms to run our emergency room efficiently. It’s very difficult for us to expand here on campus, so let’s take it to where the people are.”

There is lots and lots of empty land on the current Doctors Hospital campus. Welch knows he is not telling the truth, but when you lie, you need to lie big.

soccerfan
18
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soccerfan 01/08/13 - 08:52 am
4
0
Not the solution to the problem.

People need to stop going to the ER for non emergency illnesses and tying up the ER for much needed services. People go to the ER because their either don't want to take off work during the day to go to a Dr. or they have no insurance so therefore the ER's are unindated with non emergency patients that could have been treated in an office or Prompt Care.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 01/08/13 - 10:02 am
5
0
I completely agree with

I completely agree with soccerfan on that point. The ER's are also loaded with people faking in an effort to get drugs.

We are fortunate to have three good hospitals with a variety of specialties. Any of them would be welcome and greatly appreciated in CC.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/08/13 - 11:57 am
2
0
What's up with that parcel

What's up with that parcel out toward Greenbriar? It has a sign proposing medical development. I think it is University Hospital's land now? Right there on the left going toward William Few, before that last hill. Or did that fall through and they took the sign down before I noticed?

itsanotherday1
46881
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itsanotherday1 01/08/13 - 01:39 pm
3
0
@ Willow

"An ER in the Evans area is very much needed. I hope they choose University Hospital over Doctors."

Amen to both points.

Little Lamb
47950
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Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 02:58 pm
2
1
Obamacare

SoccerFan posted:

People go to the ER because . . . they have no insurance so, therefore, the ER's are unindated with non-emergency patients that could have been treated in an office or Prompt Care.

Well, since Obamacare now has a system to insure anybody, then today's uninsured will be tomorrow's fully-insured and, therefore, they won't go to the ER, but instead to their primary care physician or Prompt Care. Either way, we will not need these free-standing ER clinics thanks to Obamacare.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 01/08/13 - 03:21 pm
3
1
Actually the surrounding area

Actually the surrounding area of Doctors Hospital is already built up. Over the last few years several medical related buildings have opened along Interstate Pkwy, Perimeter Pkwy, and Wainbrook Drive.

Plus they renovated($1 million) the ER back in May of 2011.

The only large parcel left is facing Wheeler rd, and was recently cleared a while back.

Little Lamb
47950
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Little Lamb 01/08/13 - 03:33 pm
3
2
Doublespeak

Okay, countyman, then Doctors Hospital can build their new expanded ER on that parcel facing Wheeler Rd. For goodness sake.

OpenCurtain
10049
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OpenCurtain 01/08/13 - 05:16 pm
3
1
Could it just be?

They want to locate where there is a higher ratio of Insured & Paying Customers vs. county funded.

Steve Crawford
99
Points
Steve Crawford 01/08/13 - 06:11 pm
2
0
Taxpayer money

OpenCurtain you are mistaken about University being funded by taxpayers. UH receives Medicare and Medicaid payments for treating patients, but I'm pretty sure it gets nothing from the Augusta-Richmond County government.

Riverman1
90455
Points
Riverman1 01/08/13 - 06:51 pm
0
0
Steve, it is owned by the

Steve, it is owned by the county and solicits contributions via the foundation. I realize that's another level. I haven't heard much about it in a long time, but there is also a Hospital Authority appointed by the Commission.

I can tell you that many hospitals depending on Medicare and Medicaid turn a hefty profit. The county owned Orangeburg hospital was funding most of its county operations from the profits its hospital made. University looks to be doing very well to me with all these expansions. Maybe it's time to look at the Hospital Authority and foundation again concerning the operation of University Hospital. I've actually called for this for a long time if you remember. I also know the current administration is taking giant steps in reeling in the profits from the private groups back to the hospital. That's positive.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 01/08/13 - 08:12 pm
1
1
WOW! Some things never change.

The history of City Hospital later known as University is super rich. I've included a link for those who would like to read about it. I know I'm dating myself, but I actually remember the old campus nursing school. Yes, you might have guessed it, local politics had a huge impact on our medical community. Today, University Hospital has a number of tiered corporations.

A very interesting read.

http://www.universityhealth.org/UniversitysHistory

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/09/13 - 08:50 am
0
0
Steve Crawford - Is correct as he has stated it

Creditability is paramount for me and so are any comments.
So when I comment in error based on facts, I will correct myself when the facts show I used the wrong data.

ARC does not directly pay University Hospital for indigent care since a number of years ago. I spent a couple of hours reviewing BOTH public budgets. University Hospital makes, WOW a lot of $$$$$. Writing off a few $million in Bad debt is not going to break them from what I have seen or read last night.

ARC Now Only Directly Funds
a couple of Medical/Healthcare Projects, using about $450K+/- in funds. These supported Projects coordinate either free services or for very basic healthcare. These services are spread across a number of area medical providers and hospitals.

The AC might consider a few stories on the small office doctors who donate their services to the area's truly needy.

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