Which Georgia is this?

State's denial of emergency rooms takes regulation too far

  • Follow Editorials

Can you imagine the state government stepping in and deciding you’ve got enough restaurants in your area? Or hardware stores? Or grocery stores?

Then why in heaven would a state block your city from getting a hospital emergency room – which provides services that are infinitely more paramount?

Two Augusta hospitals, Doctors and University, wanted to build freestanding emergency departments in Evans – amid an exploding Columbia County population that now has no hospital emergency rooms.

Columbia Countians in the throes of medical emergencies currently must travel up to 25 or 30 minutes to Augusta to get care. Those in surrounding counties have an even longer drive.

And once they get there? One hospital official we talked to said emergency room waits at most Augusta hospitals can drag on as long as eight to 10 hours or more. And while not all people there are really experiencing emergencies, an increasing number are – baby boomers, for instance, who’ve not taken good care of themselves and are having chest pains, heart attacks and more.

Even such acute emergencies are experiencing sometimes hours-long waits, which can be dangerous if not fatal. Some patients are even walking out before they’re seen.

“These are really sick people,” the official told us.

We find it a tad oppressive for the state government to be telling a region of Georgia that it doesn’t need health care. We find it an outrage that a bureaucrat or board would deign to say such a thing when two hospitals – who should know – say otherwise.

Whom are you going to believe? Hospitals – two of them – that have done their due diligence and are willing to risk millions of dollars? Or bureaucrats in Atlanta?

We understand the need for regulation of health care facilities. Unnecessary duplication, in the name of cutthroat competition, could actually hurt the delivery of health care by diluting it and driving up costs, perhaps even resulting in the failure of facilities. We get that.

But Columbia County is nowhere near that point. And honestly, this case proves the regulation has gone way overboard to the point of oppression. People will suffer, and may even die, as a result of this decision by the state’s Department of Community Health.

We would have hoped the bureaucrats would have shown a little more deference to the hospitals, the free market, and the health and well-being of this region. But that’s government for you.

Yet, it’s not all governments, mind you. Georgia’s is particularly oppressive. The hospital official we talked to noted that national hospital chains have much better luck getting emergency care approved in other states. In those states, it’s a win-win: Residents get better and quicker care, while hospitals can try to make ends meet with more profitable emergency operations.

It’s particularly outrageous that in Georgia, the government is starving traditional hospital operations with drastically reduced reimbursement rates – while denying them the opportunity to make a little money with emergency rooms. It’s a Catch-22 that is squeezing health care. Nobody wins.

We hope the hospitals appeal this perfectly awful decision in court and win. But we can’t hold out much hope for that – as most judges will rightly show the executive branch the same deference that the executive branch ought to be showing the public.

A better outcome might be for the legislature to reform the “certificate of need” process to force the state to give more weight to the wisdom of the markets – and the willingness of health care professionals to take calculated risks to deliver better and more immediate care to regions that need it.

Georgia – yes, this one, not the one in Eastern Europe – has taken central planning way too far.

Comments (10) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
79004
Points
Riverman1 01/29/13 - 11:54 pm
4
2
Stand alone ER's have limitations

Stand alone ER's have limitations. The person having a heart attack needs to go to cardiology fast or even to cardiac surgery if it's a left main coronary artery blockage. Of course, stand alone ER's don't have such capabilities.

The locations where the stand alone ER's were to be built would require a large portion of the population to be transported AWAY from the downtown hospitals. Thus if the patient is having a heart attack and has to go to cardiology the drive time to the hospital is almost doubled from the stand alone ER, in addition to the drive time to get to the ER.

As Columbia County continues to grow with its affluent, medical bill paying, population, it would appear a hospital with an ER is what's really called for. That's what's apparently going to happen, too.

Riverman1
79004
Points
Riverman1 01/30/13 - 06:58 am
3
3
Hospital Should Relocate to Columbia County

Realize there are FIVE hospitals with emergency rooms located in the old Augusta city area if you include the VA. In addition, Eisenhower is in the outer county with a full ER and support specialties providing care for the military population.

University, MCG and the VA can't move. That leaves Doctors and Trinity who could take advantage of Columbia County's growth and RELOCATE THERE. The time has finally come to serve that population with a more geographically appropriate hospital. It will be a financial bonanza for the hospital that makes the move.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/30/13 - 07:24 am
4
0
The Board:

Since the CDCH board is elected by the governor, the AC should blame Sonny or Nathan (their web page doesn't list who appointed them). You have:

Commissioner-David A. Cook-the managing partner in the law firm of McGuire, Cook, & Martin P.C., served as a top aide to State Senator Nathan Deal, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and served as president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate. When Deal was elected to Congress in 1992, Cook served him in Washington, D.C., from 1992-1995 as his Chief of Staff.
Norman "Norm" L. Boyd-Interim chariman-a Corporate Officer at AGCO Corporation, a Duluth, Ga.-based Fortune 500 international company engaged in the manufacture and marketing of agricultural equipment

Jamie E. Pennington-works with Mana Corp. whichh seems to be a placement/temp agency for executives and "to work with small investment banking boutiques??? whatever that means

Jack M. Chapman Jr., MD- Yay! a doctor.

Clay Cox-CEO and Founder of Professional Probation Services. The area should be very familiar with private probabtion companies.

Richard L. Jackson-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Jackson Healthcare-which looks like a temp agency for medical professionals.

Donna Thomas Moses, D.M.D-Yay! A dentist.

Kiera L. von Besser, MD, PhD-Yay! another doctor.

William "Bill" H. Wallace Jr.-past associate vice chancellor for human resources for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and past director of human resources for Kennesaw State University. Wallace co-chaired the Commission for A New Georgia's task force that reviewed and submitted recommendations to enhance the State Health Benefit Plan. He also chaired the Commission for A New Georgia's task force that reviewed and submitted recommendations to strengthen the Recruitment, Retention and Retiree Benefit Strategies adopted for employees/retirees of the State of Georgia.

dichotomy
30341
Points
dichotomy 01/30/13 - 11:52 am
3
2
This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with need or what is best for an emergency patient. This is a reverse discrimination decision. The exisiting hospitals do not want to lose the customers with good insurance and deeper pockets to another facility located closer to the customer, with newer and cleaner equipment and facilities, and less wait times. It's all about keeping as many paying patients as possible to support the existing ERs. Even if it involves having some people die trying to get there. This is just like the Labor Relations Board trying to keep Boeing from opening a plant in SC because it was bad for the unions in Seattle, Washington. Welcome to too much government regulation of crap that was never intended for them to have the power to regulate.

jeff scott
151
Points
jeff scott 01/30/13 - 12:41 pm
0
1
I'll be considering this...

I'm extremely close to early retirement, Im not wealthy, but I have enough to pick and choose where I live. This will be a heavy black mark for me. Minutes matter. I have been in clustered ERs before and so it is not just the logistics of getting there. I have had both god and bad experiences at two different Augusta ERs. The bad experiences were because there were just too many people and too frenzied overall. I had surgery in Evans stand alone surgical building across from the courthouse and it is was outstanding - they were great!. Certainly a stand alone ER could operate well. Since SC does approve these, they will be further up on my retirement list and Evans may just fall off. My health matters to me more than it matters to the GA old guard (the sticks in the mud).

Darby
23495
Points
Darby 01/30/13 - 01:32 pm
2
2
Welcome....

to the latest incarnation of our government run Utopia.

Riverman1
79004
Points
Riverman1 01/30/13 - 08:51 pm
1
2
I drive on Stevens Creek Rd

I drive on Stevens Creek Rd everyday I work and I know where the county line is well. All the neighborhoods near the county line would have emergency patients transported away from the hospitals, back to the Evans town center area. So we drive 15 minutes the opposite way, spend time in a stand alone ER and then have to be transported to the hospitals downtown. It simply doesn't work. There are life saving procedures such as intraaortic balloon pumps that hospital ER's can perform that stand alone ER's cannot.

jeff scott
151
Points
jeff scott 01/31/13 - 01:58 am
2
1
It's not perfect, but my

It's not perfect, but my experience is that emt's are generally pretty savvy and will make good decisions. Also, the main reason that hospitals fail (when they do fail) is because they are not challenged to do better. Competition changes everything and forces improvements, otherwise they tend to not happen and mistakes and inefficiencies continue. Options are always better in the long run.

Darby
23495
Points
Darby 01/31/13 - 01:51 pm
2
1
Sorry, just got to disagree....

with Riverman1.

ER doctors are just that. If I need it, I want help now. Not fifteen minutes from now.

For that matter, I'd prefer help fourteen minutes from now rather than fifteen minutes from now.

itsanotherday1
40003
Points
itsanotherday1 02/01/13 - 02:12 pm
1
1
Yea but,

" The person having a heart attack needs to go to cardiology fast or even to cardiac surgery if it's a left main coronary artery blockage. Of course, stand alone ER's don't have such capabilities."

It is also critical to get someone stabilized that is in trouble. Some heart attacks and strokes can be averted or minimized with the administration of clot buster drugs; if given soon enough. In the time it would take to prep the O.R., a stabilized patient could be transported from Evans to Dr's Hosp.

Also, it seems you are implying that a stand alone ER would be the technical equivalent of a Doc In The Box. I think the whole idea is that a ER would have most of the advanced life saving techniques available to them.

Back to Top

Loading...