Jul 30, 2014

WellStar Challenges Northside's Move

Last month, Northside-Hospital-Cherokee filed a Letter of Determination with the state’s Department of Community Health to relocate from Hospital Road to Highway 20, near the Canton Marketplace.

WellStar Challenges Northside's Move WellStar Challenges Northside's Move

WellStar Health System Inc., which operates and Windy Hill Hospital in Marietta, is challenging 's plan to move to a new $250 million facility near Canton Marketplace by March 2015, a spokesman said this morning.

"The move by WellStar clearly is based on its concern that the new Northside Hospital-Cherokee campus will be well-received by the community, leading more community residents to obtain health care services locally," Northside spokesman Russ Davis said in a statement. 

Last month, Northside  with the state’s Department of Community Health to move from Hospital Road to Highway 20.

The hospital said the distance between the proposed site and the current one is less than three miles, which would make the relocation exempt from a certificate of need (CON) review.

In 2008, the General Assembly approved a controversial bill that revised the certificate of need program, which regulates the construction of health care facilities.

WellStar isn't sure Northside's math is right. It also contends that the new campus will expand services.

"Instead of going through the more rigorous Certificate of Need application process," WellStar spokesman Keith Bowermaster said, "Northside Cherokee instead filed a Determination Request based on a Relocation Exemption from CON. WellStar believes that Northside Cherokee Hospital has failed to provide sufficient information and documentation to support its request for an exemption."

Davis said the claims are false and disregard maps that Northside submitted to the state.

"The WellStar opposition is contrary to the intent of the General Assembly, which expressly provided in 2008 that the relocation of an urban health care facility within a three mile radius of the existing facility would not require CON review or approval so long as the facility does not propose to offer any new or expanded clinical health services at the new location," he said. "While the relocated hospital will be state-of-the art, larger, and be located on a campus with ample room for further expansion as the community’s needs grow, the hospital service offerings will not change in connection with the relocation."

Local and state leaders came out swinging this morning.

"The fact that two WellStar hospitals that are not located within Cherokee County would seek to block the citizens of this county from having a new, state-of-the-art hospital and medical campus is quite concerning," State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said. "We hope the WellStar hospitals will seriously consider withdrawing their unnecessary opposition to this very important project."

Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens said: "Cherokee County's population aged 55 and over will triple by 2030, and it is imperative that we have an appropriately-sized replacement hospital positioned to serve this rapidly growing segment of the population locally. The opposition by Wellstar is a disservice to our community and merely represents an attempt to stall construction of this much-needed replacement hospital."

Northside Hospital-Cherokee "will vigorously defend against the opposition on this project to make this vision a reality for the residents of Cherokee County," CEO Billy Hayes said.

Bowermaster said WellStar would make no other comments at this time.

The current facility has been on Hospital Road since 1962, first as the 64-bed R.T. Jones Regional Hospital. Northside bought a 50 percent stake in the hospital in 1997, renamed it Northside Hospital-Cherokee and acquired the remaining 50 percent in 2009.

In that time, Cherokee's population has swelled. There are .

The new site, which will be located on Highway 20, is intended to accommodate not only that growth, but growth in the long-term.

It will include an 84-bed hospital facility, a women's center and a multispecialty medical office building and cancer center. Additionally, there will be a 600-space parking deck and 300 additional spaces for surface parking.

Stay tuned to canton-ga.patch.com for updates on this breaking news story.

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