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Legal fight looms over Columbia County hospital decision

Monday, March 17, 2014 6:27 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:05 AM
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With the Columbia County Commission poised to pick a partner tonight to build the county’s first hospital, the decision could just be the opening salvo of what might be a months-long campaign of legal wrangling and maneuvering among three Augusta hospitals.

The commission will have to make a decision on proposals offered by Doctors Hospital, Georgia Regents Health System and University Hospital.

“We will be making one,” Chairman Ron Cross said.

Whoever is chosen will then have to seek the required Certificate of Need necessary to build the new hospital, officials said.

University would file the letter of intent to seek a CON within two weeks and then would use the required 30-day wait or more to put the application together, said CEO Jim Davis.

Georgia Regents would likely bring in outside consultants and would look to have an application in within 90 days, said Shawn P. Vincent, vice president of partnerships, international health care and strategic affiliations. Doctors declined to comment.

Both Georgia Regents and University said those not chosen will not walk away quietly.

“There’s probably going to be some sort of litigation around this,” Vincent said.

“I will guarantee you whoever gets selected will get challenged by whoever doesn’t get selected,” Davis said. “We’re figuring it is probably a good year’s worth of fighting before we get to building.”

Getting the CON will also depend upon the state accepting an exemption to its complicated needs standard to show the facility should be built. Two Georgia hospitals were able to get bed expansions beyond what the state calculated was needed because the county paid 20 percent of the cost. That is the approach University is taking for its 100-bed, $144 million hospital.

“(That) is the main reason we like that 20 percent contribution from the county because that shows there is need,” Davis said. “The citizens of the county believe there is a need for services. Without that, I think it is going to be really tough to show need.”

The other two exemptions open for Columbia County are if the proposal comes from an existing trauma center or from an existing teaching hospital. Georgia Regents could pursue either one and Doctors hope to use the trauma center exemption after it aims to be named a trauma center this summer. Neither of those two has been utilized before to justify a new hospital or an expansion.

If a CON can be granted, University is looking at 18 months to two years for construction, and University officials planned on 2017 as the first year of operation. In its proposal, Doctors estimated it would take 29 months to design, build and move into its 108-bed, $150 million hospital, which would look similar to one parent company HCA is building in Loudon County, Va. Georgia Regents was looking at around 30 months for construction of its $244 million, 144-bed hospital in part because of a heavy emphasis on future needs, Vincent said.

“One of the things we’ve done in our proposal was really focusing a lot on the future and what does the health care of tomorrow look like,” he said. “Therefore a lot of the construction as we think about this project focuses on what potentially may be needed tomorrow.”

The work will be done in concert with the health system’s technology partners, Cerner and Royal Phillips, and the facility will be built to accommodate technology that might not even exist yet, Vincent said.

“We are definitely in their pipeline, related to their research and development, which gives us an opportunity to perhaps access certain technology that is not even commercially available yet,” he said.

It is more expensive – the hospital would be more than the College of Dental Medicine Building and the Medical Education Commons building at GRU combined – but that will pay off in the long run, Vincent said.

“By having international partners, we’re able to pull best practices from not only around the United States but from around the world to actually incorporate into a project of this size to improve efficiencies and improve patient care,” he said.

University deliberately tried to keep down the cost of the facility partly because some of it will be borne by the taxpayer, but also because efficiency and cost-effectiveness is becoming more important in health care as future cuts loom, Davis said.

“My vision of health care is it has got to be high quality but it is going to have to be very inexpensive down the road,” he said. “It will be a very nice facility. It will be a lot like the building I am sitting in right now, which I don’t think is too bad. It will still be a very nice facility, but we do everything very efficiently around here.”

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Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 03/18/14 - 07:42 am
4
0
Location

"University deliberately tried to keep down the cost of the facility partly because some of it will be borne by the taxpayer..."

I thought they were going to give it all back up front in future tax payments?

The location issue has more importance than most realize. I believe the majority of the Commissioners favor a hospital in the Evans area as opposed to the Grovetown area GRU proposes to use. That gives University and Doctors an advantage because both will build in Evans if CON approval is gained.

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:37 am
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0
Pony up those back door deals GRU & Doctors. UH has a deal.
Unpublished

Pony up those back door deals GRU & Doctors. UH has a deal.

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:38 am
0
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The Sopranos already have the concrete and "no shows" ready
Unpublished

The Sopranos already have the concrete and "no shows" ready

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:39 am
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What network is going to accept XX General Hosp in Evans?
Unpublished

What network is going to accept XX General Hosp in Evans?

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:40 am
0
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It will be built in Evans on Marshall property. Wanta bet?
Unpublished

It will be built in Evans on Marshall property. Wanta bet?

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:41 am
0
0
Every CC taxpayer will be paying now and forever for empty beds.
Unpublished

Every CC taxpayer will be paying now and forever for empty beds.

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:41 am
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0
Every CC taxpayer will be paying now and forever for duplication
Unpublished

Every CC taxpayer will be paying now and forever for duplication

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:42 am
0
0
Every CC taxpayer will be paying for duplication of staffing
Unpublished

Every CC taxpayer will be paying for duplication of staffing

soapy_725
43630
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soapy_725 03/18/14 - 08:43 am
0
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This has got to be the corrupt $$ deal of the century for CC.
Unpublished

This has got to be the corrupt $$ deal of the century for CC.

GuyGene
1247
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GuyGene 03/18/14 - 09:07 am
2
1
Build, please...

I just hope a hospital comes! It could save some of our lives.

ralphinga
1165
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ralphinga 03/18/14 - 11:17 am
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Tangled Web

CON legislation causes different problems than it was planned to solve. It was planned to eliminate "costly" duplication of expensive services by regulation. It certainly eliminates competition and the decision of users to vote with their feet and pocketbooks. The CON legislation favors academic medical centers, because traditional wisdom indicated that the best health care occurs in a learning environment. GRU Medical Center is a Level 1 designated Trauma Center. No other health care facility in the CSRA has a trauma center designation. They are emergency rooms only. That's another exclusive advantage that GRU possesses. So the real question is " how long will the lawsuits drag on"? This process should proceed without Columbia County putting money into the contest. It just proves that the politicians favor the competitors of GRU Medical Center.

Sweet son
9972
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Sweet son 03/18/14 - 11:37 am
1
1
It is all about money and not about healthcare!

Quote: “There’s probably going to be some sort of litigation around this,” Vincent said.

Sounds like money to me.

Darby
24763
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Darby 03/18/14 - 12:25 pm
1
1
And once again we prove to the world

that we are the most litigious society on the face of the planet.

See you in court!

Marinerman1
4548
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Marinerman1 03/18/14 - 01:35 pm
1
2
How Will MCG Pay for This ?

If MCG should be the ultimate chosen one, how can we be assured that no "State" money gets infused into this hospital? That would definitely be an unfair advantage. And really, does HCA honestly want to build something in Columbia County? Doctor's Field, which became Kroger Field, is now our Town Center Park. If Doctor's was going to build something, why did they let the perfect spot "go"? The taxes couldn't have been THAT much. Guess we will see the first shot over the bow tonight.

Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 03/18/14 - 02:17 pm
1
1
GRU is state owned. Why

GRU is state owned. Why wouldn't you expect state money to be used? Of course their medical practice thing does well and also funds part of the med school. University is Richmond County owned. So when it comes right down to it, both of those are government owned.

Marinerman1
4548
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Marinerman1 03/18/14 - 02:41 pm
0
1
Welllllll

University is not "owned" by ARC. Not one red cent comes from ARC for anything. There has not even been any "indigent" dollars in years. The last University "statement" I received in the newspaper, was dated 2011. My point about MCG, is that it would seem to me to be unfair for State money to be used (our taxes) to pay for MCG's share of construction costs. That would unfair to Doctor's or University. It is different.

Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 03/18/14 - 04:47 pm
0
1
Who Owns University

Although the foundation runs University it is at the blessing of the Richmond County Hospital Authority which is appointed by the Commission. Richmond County does own University although they have relinquished control to the University Health Care Foundation. University often has fancy lunches for the Commissioners to ensure their continued acquiescence. There is absolutely nothing to keep a dysfunctional Richmond County Commission from once again exerting the county ownership and control.

Riverman1
81439
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Riverman1 03/18/14 - 04:46 pm
0
1
Tonight is the Night

Again, I don't care which hospital is chosen. I believe our continued discussion affects the proposals in beneficial ways and gives the commissioners information. I've even wondered if some kind of compromise, joint venture with all three hospitals would be possible. Or a Columbia County owned hospital? We have the demographics for a hospital that will turn major profits.

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