“The request was denied,” said Pamela Keene, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Health, which oversees the certificate of need program for the state. Details will not be available until next week, she said.
A University Hospital official who saw the decision said it boiled down to “Columbia County doesn’t have a problem accessing an ER,” spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said. In the state’s view, “it really wasn’t needed,” she said.
Doctors CEO Doug Welch said he would wait for confirmation on part of the decision, which would likely be Monday, before commenting.
County officials had been hoping at least one proposal would go through and are disappointed, county commission Chairman Ron Cross said. County officials met with their state legislative delegation about two weeks ago in hopes they might be able to help, and there might need to be “legislative action to get something done,” Cross said.
Doctors Hospital had sought to build a $9.8 million, 12-bed facility with a trauma room across from Marshall Square on North Belair Road. University wanted to add a $9.67 million, 18-bed facility with five trauma rooms to its nearby Evans campus on North Belair.
The applications were filed within a couple of weeks of each other last year, and the state considered them together.
The decision was not unexpected because the state has never granted permission for a freestanding emergency room before, though many states do, including South Carolina.
A similar petition was denied in December from Eastside Medical Center in Snellville to build a freestanding ER in nearby Walton County; however, that application was opposed by local hospitals and some residents in the county, a University official has said previously.
Columbia County officials hope to look at the decision Monday and meet with legislators to see whether there is potential to proceed, Cross said.
Though Doctors Hospital is close to the county line, it is difficult to reach from many parts of the county, he said.
“It’s still not an ideal situation as far as very prompt emergency care,” Cross said.