WellStar Drops Opposition to Northside
The president and CEO says as much in a full page newspaper ad.
In a full page ad that will appear in today's Cherokee Ledger-News, WellStar Health System CEO Reynold Jennings said the Marietta health care provider has dropped all opposition to Northside Hospital-Cherokee's proposed replacement facility.
"Although Northside's application and public statements were unclear, we will accept Northside's recent statement that it will not offer any new or expanded clinical services at its new hospital facility," he wrote.
Jennings' open letter to Cherokee County residents comes just one month after a WellStar spokesman said officials at the health system were exploring their options after the Georgia Department of Community Health rejected the health system's latest challenge to Northside Hospital-Cherokee's relocation efforts.
Asked at the time what those options were, Bowermaster said, "WellStar could file a lawsuit in either Cobb or Fulton County Superior Court."
Since last year, WellStar Health System officials contended that Northside Hospital-Cherokee's relocation efforts should go through the same state review process of other hospitals, known as the Certificate of Need program.
They said that Northside's actions and statements made it clear that the new facility would greatly expand the services currently provided at Northside's present home on Hospital Road.
"Thus, like every other hospital in the state, they must go through the (Certificate of Need) process" that regulates the construction of health care facilities, WellStar spokesman Keith Bowermaster told Canton-Sixes Patch back in November.
The Georgia Department of Community Health rejected that notion in October. But in November, WellStar filed an appeal with the same agency. A state-appointed hearing officer said in February that the challenge lacked "legitimate basis."
That prompted another appeal a few weeks later. WellStar requested an agency review hearing with Department of Community Health, which state officials turned down in April. It was WellStar's last recourse in the process to obtain a final decision from the Department of Community Health.
"There is competent and substantial evidence in the record to support the Hearing Officer’s affirmative decision for the project on February 23, 2012," the department said in its latest ruling.
Northside always maintained that it was exempt from that Certificate of Need review because the distance between the proposed site and the current one is less than three miles.
"The General Assembly ... 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," Davis, Northside's spokesman, said last year. "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."
Now that all opposition has been dropped, the project is expected to be completed within two years after the start of construction.
To Cherokee County Residents,
Since the opening of the WellStar Towne Lake Medical Center in 1995, WellStar has been an integral part of the growth of Cherokee County. Our physicians, nurses and clinicians have come to know many of you and your family members through the years. We appreciate the opportunity to provide you with the high quality care you have come to expect from WellStar, and thank you for placing your trust in us.
As you may hear, WellStar will not appeal the Department of Community Health's decision to allow Northside Cherokee Hospital to relocate their current facility. Although Northside's application and public statements were unclear, we will accept Northside's recent statement that it will not offer any new or expanded clinical services at its new hospital facility. You should know, however, that while we have dropped our opposition to this project, Northside continues to oppose WellStar's plans to offer new services at our proposed East Cobb Health Park. In fact, Northside recently filed a lawsuit against us to block our project.
Our commitment to Cherokee County will continue to strengthen as we add physicians and clinical services in the area. Recently, we opened a new WellStar Imaging Center in Canton and expanded our cardiology presence in Canton. We are the market leader in Cherokee and will stay true to our mission of "creating and delivering high quality hospital, physician and healthcare related services that improve the health and well-being of the individuals and communities we serve."
Please visit wellstar.org or call 770-956-STAR to find a physician or to locate a WellStar service near you.
President & CEO
WellStar Health System