First a punt, now a turnover

Latest hospital decision in county's hands goes to the state

  • Follow Editorials

Call it the vote that wasn’t.

The Columbia County Commission couldn’t manage to choose a favorite among three health systems vying to build the county’s first hospital. That essentially hands the decision over to state regulators without any endorsement from the very community the facility would serve.

The county’s quest for a 100-plus-bed hospital is the biggest economic development game it has ever played, and Tuesday’s decision amounted to a turnover.

An equal endorsement is the same as no endorsement, which is another way of telling the Georgia Department of Community Health – the final arbiter in the decision – that whichever hospital it chooses is just dandy with Columbia County.

The political pressure apparently was too much for commissioners to handle, as was the case last month with the commission-appointed citizens hospital advisory committee, which also failed to make an endorsement.

Choosing one of the three competing systems – Doctors Hospital, Georgia Regents Health System and University Hospital – would have put county leaders at odds with constituents favoring the other two. And with county elections less than two months away, that is a risk Commission Chairman Ron Cross apparently was loath to make.

We’ve come to expect our national leaders to shirk tough decisions, but shouldn’t we expect a little more from the elected officials who actually share our ZIP codes?

Yes, the decision was politically convenient, and it may also prove to be legally prudent, given that the state’s archaic and complicated Certificate of Need program criteria. The state, which says Columbia County is already adequately served by Richmond County facilities, and would allow a new facility in the county only if it falls under one of three exceptions. Each competing health system claims it meets one or more exceptions, but legal challenges are almost assured for any system that secures a CON.

State health officials were never bound to follow any county-level decision, but what is the harm in letting state officials know the community has a preferred choice among the three possible dance partners?

An unsettling prospect is that the commission, contrary to the statements of its members, does in fact have a preferred health system in mind. Might commission members avoid election-year fallout by lobbying state regulators behind the scenes on behalf of that provider? If so, what political cowardice.

Of course, all this hand-wringing would be unnecessary if the CON process was repealed. Instead of rightly letting the free market determine a hospital’s viability, the CON approach essentially grants a health system monopoly status in a community.

But since the state is saddled with the CON system, a county government should take advantage of the fact that local preference is a significant factor in the CON decision-making process. To not flex that political muscle is an abrogation of duty.

Columbia County residents apparently will have to wait for bureaucrats in Atlanta to decide which health care provider – if any – will be best for them.

Comments (9) 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
84919
Points
Riverman1 03/20/14 - 06:32 am
3
1
This Is The Right Play

Appealing the CON process and letting whoever wants to build a hospital take the risk is the wise implementation on the state level by legislators. However, the only mistake Columbia County made was at first announcing it would select one hospital to partner with and support in its CON application.

They have finally hit on the proper tactic and that’s to give a blanket support saying the county desires a hospital while not supporting a particular one. To keep the football analogy, let's not try to influence the referees and be good fans cheering for our team.

Be reasonable here. All three potential applicants are excellent hospitals. The only negatives we hear are anecdotes about someone’s aunt waiting a long time in the ER and so on. Let’s hope they all apply. With the Republican controlled state government, the whole CON process is under scrutiny and it’s probable the CON committee will be favorable in allowing a hospital in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. The population projections for 2017 indicate the growth continues at this amazing rate.

The loopholes can also be used by all three hospitals either as trauma centers, teaching hospitals or because of county contributions (that can be returned up front). Let’s see what happens and admit all three would be touchdowns and welcome choices.

Little Lamb
46404
Points
Little Lamb 03/20/14 - 08:38 am
1
1
Error?

Is there a misstatement of fact in the editorial? Take a look at this:

The state, which says Columbia County is already adequately served by Richmond County facilities, and would allow a new facility in the county only if it falls under one of three exceptions.

I think the clause in bold is not strictly true. Recently the state evaluated proposals from University Hospital and Doctors Hospital and refused to issue a certificate of need. But the evaluation and the refusal was not for a full-service hospital. It was for a free-standing emergency room only.

The need to seek the exceptions was never fully demonstrated to be necessary. If University Hospital and Doctors Hospital had gone back to the drawing board after the rejection, then come back with proposals for a full service hospital, and then been rejected by the state; you could have made the case for taking the exception route.

This entire thing about having a hospital in Columbia County just to satisfy Ron Cross’s vanity was bungled all along the way. Any objective analysis will show that the CSRA is adequately served by the existing facilities. We have five hospitals in the CSRA (seven, if you count Burke County and McDuffie County). Putting one in Columbia County is unnecessary and counterproductive.

deestafford
27875
Points
deestafford 03/20/14 - 10:26 am
0
0
The only comment...

The only comment I have is, "Why does the state have to get involved anyway?" What is the history and rationale for this ever being set up? Is there any push to eliminate this requirement? Would its elimination save the state money?

Bizkit
32146
Points
Bizkit 03/20/14 - 10:39 am
0
0
Columbia county is a large

Columbia county is a large population county-sure they are hospitals 20 minutes or more away, but it is well known for emergencies time is critical. 20 minutes is too long and will equate to lots of needless deaths that could be prevented. But it's health care and it is about cost not service nor any guarantee to actually help or save a life.

Sweet son
10553
Points
Sweet son 03/20/14 - 11:47 am
0
0
What if?

All three facilities submit CON applications and the State says all proposals are equal and fit the need component. Then will the State pick one of the three to award this huge money making business to or will they punt it back to the county. All of the comments have been about exemptions and all of the proposals seem to fit.

Just wondering.

Riverman1
84919
Points
Riverman1 03/20/14 - 05:02 pm
1
0
LL, I've told them the same

LL, I've told them the same thing about the previous ER CON until I'm blue in the face.

Little Lamb
46404
Points
Little Lamb 03/20/14 - 11:11 pm
0
0
Where's ACES?

Have you noticed how Mike Ryan sometimes comes in to explain his thought process or to clarify in response to a question? He did not today.

NrthAugustaSam
484
Points
NrthAugustaSam 03/21/14 - 04:08 pm
1
0
Thesaurus

If you look up "political cowardice" in a thesaurus there is a group photo of the Columbia County Commission with "Rosie Cheeks" Ron Cross, all smiles, right there in the middle. This was a fine description of the state of government in Columbia County. Right on!!!

rcandrews
127
Points
rcandrews 03/23/14 - 02:35 pm
1
0
Say what?

Columbia County is a "large" county, really?

With an average death rate of 750 per year since 2007 and a birth rate just shy of 1,500 annually and a population of 23,600, "large" isn't the word I would use and "rapid" growth isn't the word I would use for COlumbia County's Growth Rate.

That stated if the residents of that county can afford a hospital regardless the type ( I would hope they would build one they can afford and that best suites THEIR needs), let them vote on the one THEY want and keep the B.S. Bureaucrats, Fat Cats and Statist Pigs out of it.

Now ask yourself how many of 750 people that pass away actually died because they couldn't get to the hospital in time?

I have found not a single fatality due DIRECTLY for that reason.

I have an idea for the small community though.

They are known as Monster Medic Trucks, fully functional Emergency Rooms on wheels, staff it with a couple NP's (Nurse Practitioners and a couple PA's (Physicians Assistants) and a couple MD's In Rotation for the seriously injured and send it out when needed.

A heck of a lot less money to have one of those and staffed than an entire hospital.

Just a thought.

But for the love of whatever you hold dear DONOT let a small group of corrupt knuckle dragging meat heads, whose only purpose in life is to make yours miserable deciding this sort of thing for you.

DEMAND to be allowed to vote on it!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Nuke supplier agrees to changes after cheating

ATLANTA - A manufacturer making parts for two nuclear plants in the Southeast has promised to better train its employees after investigators accused three workers of cheating on a qualification ...
Search Augusta jobs