Twice, state officials have poked holes in WellStar Health System's assertion that Northside Hospital-Cherokee's relocation efforts should go through the same state review process of other hospitals.
But only weeks after a state-appointed hearing officer ruled that WellStar's most recent challenge lacked "legitimate basis," the Marietta-based healthcare provider requested an agency review hearing with the Georgia Department of Community Health.
“WellStar, other healthcare providers and the citizens of Cherokee County are entitled to obtain factual information necessary to assess Northside’s plans,” said Chris Kane, senior vice president of strategic business development for WellStar. “As of now, Northside has offered only undocumented and unsupported contentions regarding the new facility’s compliance with the CON relocation exemption requirements and has refused to provide WellStar or DCH with the facts. Simply stated, Northside has failed to provide real evidence that they do not intend to expand clinical services at the “replacement hospital” and have only offered vague statements.”
Northside wants to build a new $250 million replacement facility near Canton Marketplace. Since last year, WellStar officials have contended that Northside's actions and statements make it clear that the new facility will 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, 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 the challenge lacked "legitimate basis."
Today's request from WellStar is its last recourse in the process to obtain a final decision from the Department of Community Health.
Previously, Northside executives have said that WellStar's continuous challenges weren't about transparency or compliance.
"Their repeated efforts and tactics are proof positive that they are doing everything they can to delay this much needed replacement facility," Northside Hospital-Cherokee CEO Billy Hayes said on Feb. 24. "Their actions clearly are designed to deny area residents access to a new, state-of-the-art hospital and the Cherokee community is becoming increasingly opposed to their efforts. The community support for the project is overwhelming."
Today, WellStar called that characterization bogus.
“Frankly, Northside’s repeated degradation and baseless rants regarding WellStar’s opposition to the “replacement hospital” are a bit stale,” Kane said. “If Northside would like to discuss the facts regarding the issue, we’ll be happy to do just that—and have repeatedly requested it. Otherwise, we have no option other than to ask the agency to review the decision.”
WellStar officials said that Northside has been just as aggressive in its 18-month-long challenge of a planned WellStar facility in East Cobb.
“Northside opposes more DCH projects than any health system in the state, and this information is in the public record,” Kane said. “Are the legal fees and other costs of those actions really a good use of their financial resources? In regards to DCH projects, Northside clearly says one thing but does another.”
Once all opposition is dropped, Northside spokesman Russ Davis said last month, the project is expected to be completed within two years after the start of construction.