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GRU bids to create Columbia County hospital

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The boards that govern Geor­gia Regents Health Sys­tem and its medical center voted unanimously Monday to make a bid to build a hospital in Columbia County, the state’s largest county without one.

The boards met in a called meeting and – after a 45-minute executive session – voted to respond to Columbia Coun­ty’s request for bids to build a hospital.

Last year, the Georgia De­part­ment of Community Health shot down competing requests for a Certificate of Need from University Hospi­tal and Doctors Hospital to build a free-standing emergency department in Colum­bia County. The state maintained there were adequate resources in Augusta to serve the county and that the proposals failed to demonstrate the need for the new facility.

In conversations with the state, county officials said they were made aware of three exceptions to that need standard that could apply: if it is an existing trauma center, if it is an existing teaching hospital or if the county pays 20 percent of the cost.

GRU’s bid could conceivably rely on all three, said Shawn P. Vincent Sr., the university’s vice president of partnerships, international health care and strategic affiliations.

“Given our history, we would believe that we certainly meet two of those criteria, being the Level One Trauma Center for 13 counties within Georgia (including Columbia) as well as being the state’s academic health center,” he said.

The physicians’ group at GRU had pursued a $34 million clinic there from 2006 to 2011 and got state permission over objections of other providers who argued it wasn’t needed, but it dropped the bid because of economic conditions. Vincent said the health system also decided to pursue a different expansion strategy to “partner with other community hospitals, other providers without having to own or control but still provide the services needed to the citizens of the community.”

The chance to build a hospital is a “unique opportunity” that could allow Georgia Re­gents Medical Center to really focus on the highest-level care, he said.

“We can provide that care better, faster and less expensive than others; that is how our chassis is built,” Vincent said. “This would give us an opportunity perhaps to decant some of the less complex care at another facility certainly if this works out. It’s a relief valve. You’re moving some of the less complex (cases), which increases throughput in a complex setting.”

While there was talk for years in the health system of the need for a replacement hospital, parts of which opened in the mid-1950s, that would not be the purpose of the Columbia County bid, Vincent said.

“We would not abandon our downtown facility or Richmond County, for that matter,” he said.

University’s board voted last month to put in a bid to build a 100-bed hospital in Columbia County, which it estimated at roughly $150 million. Doctors Hospital said in a statement last year that it is considering the request for bids. Those bids are due Friday.

Columbia County is attractive, particularly because of its population growth, Vincent said.

“Everybody talks about (a more favorable) payor mix, but it is really about geographic expansion, more people,” he said.

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soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 01/07/14 - 06:17 am
1
0
Wonder if they still own the land in the Euchee Creek Swamp?
Unpublished

Wonder if they still own the land in the Euchee Creek Swamp?

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 01/07/14 - 06:18 am
1
0
Washington Rd. The "proposed site" sign rotted.
Unpublished

Washington Rd. The "proposed site" sign rotted.

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 06:58 am
4
4
County Does Not Have To Contribute

"Columbia County is attractive, particularly because of its population growth, Vincent said.

As I've said before there's absolutely no reason to believe a Republican state controlled government will turn down a certificate of need (CON) for a hospital in Columbia County. The county should not have to contribute 20%. The free standing emergency room was turned down because of the concept. Those type facilities have not been approved anywhere in GA or SC. There's little reason for anyone to link the fact the ER was turned down with approval for a hospital.

Columbia County, let them come to you and choose the hospital willing to build the best facility with their own money. Hospitals are huge money makers. especially in a location with this county's demographics. Don't believe otherwise.

Before the county gets involved with financing, let the competing hospitals go through the CON process. Columbia County certainly demonstrates a need with its population, plus its high percentage of patients with insurance.

Truth Matters
8097
Points
Truth Matters 01/07/14 - 07:18 am
0
3
"As I've said before there's

"As I've said before there's absolutely no reason to believe a Republican state controlled government will turn down a certificate of need (CON) for a hospital in Columbia County."

There is indeed a benefit to controlling the state government. As an aside I still scratch my head and wonder about the $$ spent to build a satellite campus of Augusta Tech in Columbia County when the area is sandwiched almost equal distance between Richmond and McDuffie campuses. All the time the state is consolidating many Tech Colleges statewide.

So, I say good for Columbia County, I just hope down the road we don't see a similar trend in closings in areas that have less political influence.

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 01/07/14 - 07:55 am
5
2
NO!!!

No GRU Hospital in ColCo, I will drive to University if they have a hospital here. Their patient care can be marginal to atrocious from accounts I've heard.

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 08:42 am
3
3
Interesting Comments

Interesting comments. Truth Matters agrees with me that politics are involved in such decisions. IAD says he prefers University to GRU building a hospital in Columbia County and that brings up an interesting point. University belongs to Richmond County in a convoluted way through their foundation. How much influence will Richmond County put on University not to expand into Columbia County? In the past University has expanded into McDuffie County so I suspect they can talk sense into those in Richmond County government opposing expansion. But this could become a political issue with some believing jobs will be lost to Columbia County.

Marinerman1
5499
Points
Marinerman1 01/07/14 - 08:43 am
4
3
@itsanotherday

When my son was involved in an automobile accident, he was taken to MCG's Trauma Center. He got great care from them, and we are grateful. However, I would agree with you that I would drive to University for anything but trauma. My wife's been a patient of University a couple of times, and was very pleased with her care. Do we REALLY want Azziz's fingers in Columbia County ?? I don't.

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 08:51 am
2
3
I wonder ,since they have

I wonder ,since they have turned down flat Doctor's and University's efforts, if GRU gets it then is it all political and law suits will be pending from the other two?

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 08:51 am
1
3
I wonder ,since they have

I wonder ,since they have turned down flat Doctor's and University's efforts, if GRU gets it then is it all political and law suits will be pending from the other two?

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 08:57 am
3
3
Bizkit, keep in mind the only

Bizkit, keep in mind the only thing the state has turned down is the free standing emergency room. That concept hasn't been approved yet anywhere in GA or SC, as I mentioned. A hospital for the county is a new initiative.

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 01/07/14 - 09:22 am
4
3
Trauma

Yes, MCG is THE place you want to be; just like Grady in Atlanta, for trauma. I think if you had some unusual disease, it might be the best option as well. In those instances, you would be going downtown anyway.

But for routine hospital floor care, they suck if the people I know received their "standard" care.

Tom Corwin
10806
Points
Tom Corwin 01/07/14 - 09:46 am
7
1
Riverman1

Actually, South Carolina allows free-standing Emergency Departments. Georgia has so far rejected three different attempts based on its need standard. The reason I put that in the story is the state has decided there are adequate resources in Augusta to service Columbia County in that regard. That appears to be the hurdle the county will have to overcome. The exceptions mentioned in the story are in the law but have never been utilized so there is no precedent for Columbia County's effort. I do not know if there was any attempt to have Republican lawmakers try to influence the state's decision but I know Columbia County officials talked about appealing to the delegation for help last time and it apparently did not matter in the end as the CON was denied.

seenitB4
98616
Points
seenitB4 01/07/14 - 10:02 am
5
2
Great for Columbia county

I hope you get it....we use our local hospitals in Gwinnett & I'm thankful we have them....beats that traffic into downtown & 285 mess.

Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/07/14 - 10:39 am
2
3
LOOPHOLES !

When this came up before...with the "Emergency Clinic" rejection, I said it would be back...and LOOPHOLES would end up giving one entity the upper hand...

Now the loopholes have been laid out. The county will NOT be paying for 20% of the hospital...so what is left to build one WITHOUT a "certificate of need"? Trauma center designation...and the learning institution hook.

I believe as it stands right now, University doesn't have a chance.

LOOPHOLES.

Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/07/14 - 10:42 am
3
3
The State tends to frown upon major emergency (only) centers...

...because the concept is viewed as "cherry picking". IF an entity is going to benefit from the $$$ generated by ER's...particularly in the suburbs...they need to be doing the routine care the rest of the community needs as well...

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 10:50 am
3
2
@ Tom

Tom, that still means Georgia has rejected all requests for such facilities as you said. In SC, I believe the law was relatively recently changed to allow such free standing ERs. I don't think any have been opened in SC, although I could be wrong. Do you know of any? I do recall Gov. Haley recently addressing the issue after one was turned down. Charlotte opened one, but, of course, that's NC.

But my point is because the state turned down a free standing ER in Columbia County that does not mean they are likely to turn down a hospital. I mean, goodness, they haven't approved a free standing ER anywhere in the state. I believe Columbia County can gain approval without county money.

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 10:53 am
4
1
University already has a

University already has a "significant" presence in Columbia County with the Prompt care-Physician complex. It's basically a mini-emergency room for walk in care. Seems they've already allowed a "emergency room" to some degree. This is weird.

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 11:02 am
2
2
The website states:"Go to

The website states:
"Go to Prompt Care when you and your family need treatment for urgent health care needs. Prompt Care is a walk-in facility with no appointment necessary. You may see a Prompt Care physician for conditions such as minor cuts, sprains, infections, sore throats, broken bones, intestinal complaints, insect bites, etc. If you're uncertain about when you should seek treatment at Prompt Care, call ASK-A-NURSE at ( I blanked this), 24 hours a day to speak with a registered nurse who can advise you.
In addition to the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses, outpatient lab and X-ray services are available on-site. Physicians at Prompt Care will also perform school sports physicals.
Unlike other minor treatment facilities, you will always be evaluated and treated at Prompt Care by a board-certified physician. Other professional staff includes RN, LPN and Radiologic Technologist.
We also provide convenient, comprehensive, efficient and cost effective health care for area employers and their employees. Health and safety of individuals in the workplace is critical to successful businesses in our community. Employers receive prompt evaluation of injured workers with attention to the safe, rapid return of employees to their work environment.. "
Dang close to an emergency room it seems-although it admits it's limits. So they will allow this and a physician complex-but no hospital. Like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. Hee-haw.

Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/07/14 - 11:00 am
0
5
Prompt care facilities do not count...

...according to the standards. Nor do outpatient clinics...or Physician groups affiliated with certain hospitals...

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 11:23 am
2
3
Seems ridiculous to "not

Seems ridiculous to "not count" if they actually perform a health care function and service. I'm blinded by the brilliance of these folks-I guess factors like fuel usage of a large population having to transport to a neighboring county, time for transport for an emergency, nor indirect economic advantages don't count. Studies have demonstrated decreasing emergency room response times from 15 to less than 8 minutes can significantly increase survival after cardiac arrest. With a large population like Columbia county being twenty minutes from an emergency room is statically needlessly allowing people to die.

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 11:12 am
3
3
No County Help or Teaching Hospital Requirement Necessary

This whole thing should be open bidding. Instead of Col. Cty. making any offers to help, let's see what happens with the CON. That's what I'm getting at. If a hospital is turned down for a CON, I'd be interested in why. I'd be in court.

Let's not start believing this false concept that because the free standing ER was turned down that it requires EITHER a teaching hospital designation or 20% county financing. Do y'all see the importance of what I'm saying?

WMartin
119
Points
WMartin 01/07/14 - 11:14 am
3
2
Love idea of local community hospital

Riverman, thanks so much for your comments. You have a great way of explaining things. GRU/MCG just does not mean as much to the local communities as it once did. Fantastic trauma center and a great Children's Hospital! But, most people prefer STABILITY, something MCG has lacked for more than a decade. MCG has been able to recruit some good doctors but can't seem to keep them. The local private physician groups seem to always have to step in to keep the doors open. I doubt very seriously that any significant number of citizens in Columbia county would go to an MCG hospital. University or Doctors? Definitely.

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 01/07/14 - 11:30 am
4
2
I get you Riverman. For just

I get you Riverman. For just a single reason I mentioned-time for cardiac arrest patient to emergency room is a big deal for a large population. The CON war should prove interesting-I don't see how they could stop it exactly because of need. Why would a large population be denied health care-why not move all the hospitals out of Atlanta and move them to Jonesboro, GA-about 23 minutes away as analogy.

Austin Rhodes
3002
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/07/14 - 11:29 am
0
5
GRU can move forward without a Certificate of Need...

From what I have been told, University knew GRU was going to be attempting this move, and they "jumped ahead" in order to get their name out there first. Nothing wrong with that, but the CON issue is major...and GRU doesn't need it.

nocnoc
49689
Points
nocnoc 01/07/14 - 12:44 pm
3
2
GRUII

Given Gov Deal's love for President Azzizzzzzzzzz.

Its likely a done "Deal".

/
PUN is intended.

Tom Corwin
10806
Points
Tom Corwin 01/07/14 - 01:04 pm
5
0
Quick clarifications

Whoever Columbia County chooses, they will need to apply for and get a Certificate of Need or CON. You cannot build a new acute-care hospital in Georgia without one. As the story said, the state has already denied a free-standing Emergency Department because it said Columbia County residents had adequate resources in Augusta. In doing so, the state noted in its decision the presence of several hospitals in the counties around Columbia County. You can read that however you like but it would appear that anyone trying to demonstrate the need for 100 hospital beds in Columbia County would have to overcome that fact. That is why Columbia County officials are pinning their hopes on the exceptions to the need standard.

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 01:38 pm
3
2
Disagree

Tom, as you can tell, I completely disagree. Because the free standing ER was turned down in Columbia Cty for a CON, along with ALL the other counties in the state that applied, it does not follow that a hospital would be denied a CON. One thing is for sure, the three (or more) hospitals who want to build in Columbia County can apply for the CONs and see what happens before Columbia County puts out a cent. In addition, if GRU pursues a CON as a teaching hospital, that does not mean the others can't also pursue CONs.

The language turning down the free standing ER does not necessarily apply to a hospital. They were noting other hospitals with ERs were nearby addressing the issue that they have always turned down...free standing ERs. Establishing a hospital has advantages for the area. A full hospital that also has an ER makes much more sense than a free standing ER and it could be the language in the CON denial is saying just that.

Tom Corwin
10806
Points
Tom Corwin 01/07/14 - 01:57 pm
4
1
Riverman

If they thought they could get a CON to build a hospital based on need in Columbia County, one of the Augusta hospitals or even one of the national companies would likely have tried before now. Columbia County officials will tell you that they view the exceptions as the only way they will get state permission to build an acute care hospital.

thauch12
7076
Points
thauch12 01/07/14 - 04:42 pm
4
1
If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make "sense"

One of the issues that's been side-stepped in all this is WHY GRU?

I'd venture it's essentially a ploy to pump money into a health system that is desperately lacking funds. Most people who have the means/insurance simply do not go to GRU unless they truly have to. In my experience, it's really quite similar to Grady in Atlanta where this one hospital is dumped with many of the patients who aren't going to pay for their medical care/don't have insurance. In this light, opening up a hospital in Columbia County (where there is undeniably more means/insurance) makes more financial sense for GRU than any of the other private hospitals in Augusta.

Riverman1
94280
Points
Riverman1 01/07/14 - 04:46 pm
2
2
The Economy Is What They Said

Tom, that's why I'm commenting. To correct the misinformation. University and Doctors haven't applied for a CON in the past for a hospital because the economy wouldn't allow it. That's exactly what University said. I'll add the rapid wealthy population growth of Columbia County may have just hit the threshold where it demands a full hospital.

I'll readily admit it could very well be all three will apply for a CON and GRU is going to be the one who gets it because they are also a teaching hospital. If other factors are considered it could be Doctors or University would get the CON. Personally, I favor the one who funds the best hospital entirely without help from the county or state. Of course GRU can also meet that requirement because they separate the hospital from the other. Let the process play out with everyone understanding what's going on.

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