Officials said they hope to work with the Georgia Department of Community Health to come up with rules for how such facilities might be allowed in the future in Georgia, which has never approved them.
The hospitals presented similar proposals to build a free-standing emergency department in Columbia County, the state’s largest county without an ER. The proposals were shot down Jan. 25 because the state said that the Augusta area already has plenty of emergency services and that the proposals failed to demonstrate the need for new services.
The hospitals decided to appeal although it was a long shot. Doctors CEO Doug Welch said that became more evident as it prepared for an appeal hearing, Welch said.
“The likelihood of us winning an appeal would have been small,” he said.
Instead, the hospitals hope to work with the department on why the concept is worth pursuing and perhaps help it create some guidelines for how they might be implemented, officials said.
“If nothing else, the applications have sparked awareness that there’s a need to come up with a plan at the regulatory level for free-standing emergency departments,” said Ed Burr, University’s vice president for legal affairs.
Perhaps looking at South Carolina, where the emergency departments are allowed, would be helpful, Welch said.
University and Doctors said their emergency rooms are overcrowded, which was one reason for looking to Evans. Welch said he has permission from the state to turn an X-ray room in the ER into another treatment room, which would give it 24 treatment rooms. That is not enough, he said, and there still will need to be an investment in expansion. Welch said he would just like some guidance from the state about whether that will ever be a possibility in Columbia County.