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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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Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/07/14 - 05:00 pm
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A Critical Look at University Hospital

To show I'm not picking on GRU alone, I'd also like the University-Richmond County-Foundation to be explained in detail. If Richmond County through its Commission appointed Hospital Authority will be able to exert influence with the University Foundation over what happens to the Columbia County Hospital, I'd view that as a negative.

It's may take a decade or two, but it will eventually come down to one hospital against the other for funding as Columbia County continues to grow with its population of those with health care insurance. We may as well start out with a fair arrangement. We don't need Richmond County having control.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/07/14 - 08:41 pm
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By the way, it's interesting

By the way, it's interesting that this article disappeared from the online front page after recent comments.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/07/14 - 11:02 pm
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Yabba Dabba Doo

Yes, RM, it is unfortunate that the almighty algorithm removed this thread from the Most Discussed list.

You are absolutely correct that University Hospital (and Grooo, if it must) should use the standard Certificate of Need process to make their case for full service hospitals in Columbia County.

The previous rejection of the stand-alone emergency room facility was entirely reasonable. But a full service hospital needs to be vetted before the government jumps in with a bail-out or subsidy.

rebellious
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rebellious 01/08/14 - 12:32 am
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Yabba Dabba Doo

When the parasite grows larger than the host, the host dies as well as the parasite. Heed this advice Mr. Cross. And more employers in Richmond County should pay attention as to where their employees live. Time to pull inward before outward expansion kills Augusta.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 01/08/14 - 08:29 am
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rebel

You can't stop it rebel.....look at the Braves decision in Cobb county...I do understand your plight & I can have compassion for the thought.....but it is unstoppable my friend.....also, how many RCSO employees live in other counties??

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/08/14 - 09:37 am
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Richmond Cty vs. Columbia Cty

Rebel is right in the respect that this is going to end up pulling jobs from Augusta. But that's another issue for me. My point is if we (Columbia County) are going to get another hospital, let's do it right from the beginning with everyone understanding the intricacies and consequences. As Reb is getting at, this new hospital will rapidly grow and compete with whatever hospital spawns it.

The money coming from the Columbia County hospital will be more than enough to pay for expansion. That money should not be returned to Richmond Cty. There will be major battles on that issue in the future.

GRU is somewhat committed to keeping their flagship hospital downtown, so that's a worry.

University is controlled by the Richmond County Commission in a convoluted way through the University Foundation.

Doctors is a nationally owned corporation and that presents problems.

Folks, there are hundreds of millions at stake with a Col. Cty. hospital. Should the county own it and let others run it? All kinds of things need to be considered.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 01/08/14 - 09:24 am
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Why does it

Why does it have to be any of the three hospitals you mentioned?/ What if a group of Doctors want to start their own Columbia County Hospital.....the need is there.....the land is available & we all know we have some wealthy Doctors in the CSRA......I would look at all sides of this...

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/08/14 - 09:36 am
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SeenIt, So True

SeenIt, that's absolutely true. It doesn't have to be one of the three. It could be what you say or another private hospital from another area.

To show the importance of the hospital, in Orangeburg, the hospital is county owned and it contributes a large percentage to the county treasury with its profits. Keep in mind, Orangeburg County is a poor, predominantly black demographic. My cousin is a county councilman there and he tells me the county couldn't function without the profits the hospital makes being given to the county.

Tom Corwin
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Tom Corwin 01/08/14 - 11:19 am
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Riverman

I think you are making too much of the connection between University and Richmond County government. The hospital is technically leased from the county and the Richmond County Hospital Authority has some oversight but the boards that actually govern the hospital are University Health Services and University Health Inc. The Augusta Commission has a member who is a liaison to the boards but there is no longer any financial ties with the Augusta Commission, as far as I know. Way back when the county used to pay the hospital for indigent care but that arrangement ended a long time ago.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/08/14 - 03:43 pm
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Tom, I agree with what you

Tom, I agree with what you said and that’s why I used the word “convoluted” control by Richmond County. Keep in mind, there are going to be tens of millions in profit yearly turned by a new hospital out there. I suspect if Columbia County attempts to force the hospital to keep the profits for investment in their hospital in Columbia County, the Richmond County Commission will become involved.

The lease from Richmond County is not forever and they can exert pressure at any time on the University Hospital system. I want Columbia County to realize the Richmond County connection to University and ensure in contracts the profits will be kept in Columbia County. Simple enough request.

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