MCG Columbia County plan opposed

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The group representing the Medical College of Georgia's physicians wants to build a $34 million surgery and imaging center in Columbia County, but it is facing strenuous objections from other Augusta providers, who claim it is not needed.

Physicians Practice Group has filed for a state-required Certificate of Need on what it is calling MCG Medical Associates Ambulatory Center, to be built near the corner of Knob Hill and Washington roads.

The Georgia Department of Community Health had asked for additional information on the application by Tuesday, but the group has asked for a 30-day extension.

That pushes the decision back to Sept. 20, the state said.

The 65,000-square-foot center would have three operating rooms, two procedure rooms, an imaging center with a CT scanner and a clinic with 45 exam rooms.

In its filing, the physicians group acknowledges that there is not a need for new ambulatory surgery operating rooms as defined by the state, but it asks for an exception because it claims only its physicians would be involved in physician training or research.

The application includes a copy of the Tripp Umbach report on the need for expanding medical education in the state to meet a looming physician shortage, a report MCG is using to justify expanding the School of Medicine to satellite campuses in Athens, Savannah and Albany.

"The report concludes that additional training sites are needed statewide to correct (the physician) shortfall," the Certificate of Need application reads. "The proposed project will allow the largest provider of medical education, MCG, to utilize the facility for medical student education. The quality benefits will accrue to the residents of the service area as well as other Georgians statewide."

In a letter opposing the application, University Hospital points out that Tripp Umbach does not mention the need for an ambulatory surgery center. Others opposing the move say teaching is going on at the other surgery centers, particularly the ones where MCG's clinical faculty members have privileges.

Currently, less than half of the outpatient operating capacity is being used, several Augusta providers said.

The MCG physician group also said the new center would help Medicaid, indigent and uninsured patients.

The group said 8.6 percent of its patients in 2007 were charity or indigent patients, and pledged that at least 5 percent of the gross adjusted revenue at the new center would be for such cases.

The state requires such centers to provide at least 3 percent of revenue for indigent and charity care.

Several of those opposed to the move pointed out that Columbia County's average income is well above the average for the area and that some surgery centers in the county already struggle to meet the 3 percent indigent requirement.

Augusta Surgical Center said the county's poverty rate is only 6.7 percent, the fifth lowest in the state.

"If PPG was concerned with improving access for underserved groups, it would locate its proposed facility in a less affluent area such as South Augusta," its filing states.

Others said the school might have better uses for its money.

"MCG is currently struggling to raise funds necessary to construct a needed replacement dental school building while (the physicians group) is proposing a $34 million project that will duplicate existing facilities with available capacity," Trinity Hospital of Augusta wrote.

University officials called the project "a gross misapplication of limited health care financial resources."

The MCG physicians group's president and CEO, Curt M. Steinhart, said he did not want to comment on that.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and I guess what you're stating is that other people at this point don't agree with our opinion," Dr. Steinhart said. "... We will answer the requests of the department and do that in as rapid a time as we can."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

Georgia and many other states require a license called a Certificate of Need on new health care services and equipment. You must get a Certificate of Need in Georgia if you want to:

- Buy a piece of equipment over $1 million

- Spend more than $2.5 million in construction

- Build a physician-owned, single-specialty ambulatory surgery center that costs more than $2.5 million

- Build a joint venture ambulatory surgery center costing more than $5 million

The belief is that by regulating expensive equipment and the distribution of health care, it will lead to more efficient use of existing resources and limit unneeded or duplicated services that drive health care costs up.

Comments (15)

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TheTruth
1
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TheTruth 08/06/08 - 06:53 am
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I smell elitism...

I smell elitism...

HYPOCRITES 08
7
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HYPOCRITES 08 08/06/08 - 07:13 am
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You hit the nail directly

You hit the nail directly onthe head. Talk about a waste of money. You admit it is not needed but you want to waste money. If you need more room for tarining, EXPAND.

Bizarro
13
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Bizarro 08/06/08 - 07:14 am
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I agree MCG should build in

I agree MCG should build in South Augusta with the logic they propose otherwise their argument is a load of manure and they just want to compete with other hospitals. Why not spend the money on building the only dental school in the state if you want to serve the folks of GA.

paulwheeler
105
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paulwheeler 08/06/08 - 07:35 am
0
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How intersesting, another MCG

How intersesting, another MCG entity (and there are many) is wanting to spend $34 million, and Augusta-Richmond County has to buy Gilbert Manor for them?
A good housecleaning is needed at that place. Overpaid arrogant people playing with tax money is never a good thing.
This is what happens.

426Hemi
0
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426Hemi 08/06/08 - 07:56 am
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Augusta providers would jump

Augusta providers would jump at the chance of having this facility. Even though it's "not needed." Hypocrites.

aaa
2
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aaa 08/06/08 - 08:10 am
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It might serve Lincoln and

It might serve Lincoln and Washington county residents as well as those from the remote reaches of Columbia county. I don't have a problem with such a facility if it was built and operated as an "open facility", allowing physicians, clinical nurses, and other health care workers from the private community to see and treat patients there as well. If you are from the area of Columbia county north of the Washington Road / Columbia Road / Belair area, not to mention Washington and Lincoln counties, you've got a significant drive to get down to MCG. If you are sick, being treated for cancer, etc., that distance might as well be as far as Atlanta. It will be expensive, true. Some expensive ventures do end up being well worth their expense. Maybe this is one.

keraknightwalker
0
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keraknightwalker 08/06/08 - 09:38 am
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MCG wants to help the needy

MCG wants to help the needy here in col. co.? then why are they turning away folks at their ER... all they really want is the money being spent here instead of Augusta!

Unforgiven
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Unforgiven 08/06/08 - 11:13 am
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I agree with everyone else,

I agree with everyone else, we DON'T need anymore construction projects here.

jack
10
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jack 08/06/08 - 11:33 am
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Karak, when have you

Karak, when have you personally seen anyone truned away fro the MCG ER? Specifics please.

keraknightwalker
0
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keraknightwalker 08/06/08 - 02:11 pm
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Specifics Jack... I have seen

Specifics Jack... I have seen it myself....sitting with a sick friend, a woman came in.. she didn't look to good.. about 30min. later she is yelling that the only reason she couldn't be seen is because she wasn't a lazy[filtered word] on medicade and had no insurance...it didn't take long for the MCG cops were leading her out the door and off the property...oh I know MCG says it doesn't do it but they do...I just don't think we need MCG out here in col. co...we have a very good start up medical comm. out here ...we don't need MCG and all it's problems that goes with it...

dale88fan
0
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dale88fan 08/06/08 - 04:40 pm
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bring MCG out here so my wife

bring MCG out here so my wife can transfer to this one and we can save some GAS money!! If you build it they will come!!!!

LittleLady
1
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LittleLady 08/06/08 - 08:59 pm
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How short sighted. We hear

How short sighted. We hear constantly about the shortage of physicians in Georgia. Everybody is concerned about the possibility of MCG moving away from Augusta to Athans. Here MCG is willing to expand surgical and imaging center and provide training facility, everybody wants to halt it. Didn't I hear that we want Augusta to become a medical destination? The area population is growing at fast rate, especially senior citizens who will need more medical attention. We may not see the immediate need, but the need will be here quicker than you think as our community continue to grow at the current rate.

Safe at Home
0
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Safe at Home 08/07/08 - 08:00 am
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It is not Washington

It is not Washington County...it is Wilkes County

hobo
0
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hobo 08/07/08 - 11:48 am
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Remember it is all about the

Remember it is all about the money not free care

tiredofit
0
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tiredofit 08/09/08 - 09:23 am
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First of all, it is the

First of all, it is the physician group that would be building this-not MCG Health Inc that runs the main campus. Thus, the whole Gilbert Manor issue is with a different entity. What people fail to realize is that MCG loses great physicians every year. Why? It is very difficult to run a fiscally sound operation when a huge percentage of your patients are medicaid. The insurance is in Columbia County and University, who opposes the plan, knows that and that is why they have a large facility on Belair Road. Physicians have a choice where to practice and if your facility does not have a good payor mix you can not be financially competitive. Who wouldn't move if you can do the same job and be paid more elsewhere? Most people from Columbia County will not drive down to MCG, why deny them the ability to see there doctor closer to home like patients of University can do? From what I understand this does not involve taxpayer money, but would put more high level jobs in Columbia County.
As for the ER, remember the guy who drove through the wall of a University facility? They took him to the MCG ER. Do you think he had insurance? No insurance is a problem for all facilities.

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