WellStar opposes Northside’s new planned hospital
by Kristal Dixon
September 16, 2011 12:07 AM | 7924 views | 17 17 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A rendering of Northside Hospital’s planned replacement facility near I-575 at Georgia Highway 20, near the Canton Marketplace development.<br>Special to the MDJ
A rendering of Northside Hospital’s planned replacement facility near I-575 at Georgia Highway 20, near the Canton Marketplace development.
Special to the MDJ
WellStar Health System is challenging Northside Hospital’s plan to build a replacement facility on Highway 20 near the Canton Marketplace shopping center in a move that could be viewed as retribution after Northside challenged WellStar’s plan to build a health park in east Cobb.

In a 41-page document filed Sept. 1 with Georgia Department of Community Health, WellStar officials dispute their competitor’s claim that they can relocate without obtaining a Certificate of Need.

Northside executives, citing a 2008 law, said they don’t have to go through the CON process because they plan to relocate within a three-mile radius and not expand health services. But WellStar believes Northside has failed to provide proper documentation to obtain the exemption.

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

Northside in early August filed a letter of determination with the State Department of Community Health to replace its current, 84-bed facility on Hospital Road with a new facility on a 100-acre tract behind Canton Marketplace. The health care system plans to build other medical facilities on the site.

Determination requests are frequently filed when a health care provider “wants to ensure that an action or service it is contemplating is exempt from Certificate of Need review,” DCH spokesperson Pam Keene said.

Requests received by the department are typically answered within 60 to 90 days after their submittals.

If the letter is approved, the hospital would be exempt from obtaining a Certificate of Need review.

Northside said in a press release WellStar’s opposition is unfounded as a state law passed in 2008 allows hospitals to relocate within a three-mile radius without requiring a Certificate of Need review or approval if the new hospital would not offer any new or expanded health services.

“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,” Northside spokesman Russ Davis said in a press release. “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.”

Along with the new 84-bed hospital, the campus will include a women’s center, a multi-specialty medical office building and cancer center, a parking deck with 600 spaces and a 300-space surface parking lot.

The project is expected to cost about $250 million. The hospital is expected to open by March 2015.

The new location will allow for more space to adequately care for patients, and the new facility will be 300,000 square feet, twice the size than its 150,000 square-foot facility.

Northside Hospital-Cherokee CEO Billy Hayes also criticized WellStar’s opposition.

“We will vigorously defend against the opposition on this project to make this vision a reality for the residents of Cherokee County,” he added.

Keene said the department received WellStar’s letter of opposition on Sept. 1 and the department will consider the letter in its deliberations on whether Northside will be exempt from obtaining a Certificate of Need.

But Northside sparked its own firestorm last year when it formally challenged the CON WellStar received from the DCH last September for its proposed $80 million, four-story health park at Providence and Roswell roads in east Cobb. That spawned a series of appeal hearings and threatened to delay WellStar’s plans for that health park.

Still, support for Northside’s plans is coming from both the state and local level. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said Northside is an asset to Cherokee and praised its continuing investment in the county.

County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said WellStar’s opposition “really wasn’t a surprise.”

“We’ll certainly stand behind Northside’s plans because they are critical for the county,” Ahrens said.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said he was surprised by WellStar’s action.

Hobgood said he believed WellStar’s opposition letter will slow down the process, but added he believed the new hospital will be built.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Northside in our community,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the expansion.”

— MDJ Business Editor Katy Ruth Camp contributed to this report.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Not a fan
October 10, 2011
Wellstar is doing this in response to Northside'sappeal of their Cobb facility. That plan is a complete exploitation of the CON process and the rights of the community.

These hospitals are for-profit creatures and they use these special loopholes and powers to trample community rights, so we end up with poor care as a result.
w in Marietta
September 26, 2011
this is not the first time N'side has decided to proceed without approval...why can't they figure this out?
Been there
September 18, 2011
They also have historically failed to take action to protect the patients against unclean facilities.
September 18, 2011
Competition is good and will increase the quality of healthcare and the management of the healthcare institutions.

Wellstar has been a proven that their problems with the senior management within the past year that they are not always good stewards of our healthcare dollars.
I no from experience
September 17, 2011
Kennestone is poorly maintained and patients often are not properly treated before being released. Their re-admit percentage related to existing cases is worse than any facilites in the metro area.
Enough Already
September 17, 2011
The best thing that can happen here is for Northside to open a facilty.

The worst thing that can happen here is for Northside to hire the staff at Kennestone.
September 17, 2011
I have spent 9 and 10 HOURS at Wellstar hospital ER's and I DON'T EVER PLAN ON USING THIS ROUTE AGAIN. Emory Smyrna ER is humane and treats people with professionalism. My family all have changed their doctors so we don't have to be led towards Wellstar hospitals,,,,period!!!!!
September 17, 2011
To 'samuel adams", the bully tactics you refer to has been standard for Wellstar for years.They fear competition because of the lousy service they provide.If they were to control all of Cobb,Douglas,and Paulding county physicians, hospitals, imaging study facilities, home healthcare, and durable medical equipment there would be no accountability for providing prompt excellent care as we who live in these areas would have limited options for treatment. I for one welcome other healthcare organizations into our area.If Wellstar is providing the 'best" care they should not feel threatened about a new hospital in tha area. Wellstar should quit wasteing monies on law suits to stop competition and instead allocate such funds for infrastructure or employee benefits and salaries.
September 17, 2011
WellStar knows full well that the law changes in 2008 allow a replacement hospital within 3 miles...their in house legal is using a poor argument here.. No one is thinking of patients...that's the bottom line...as a community not for profit hospital, shouldn't wellstar put patients before profits? This suit has nothing to do with what's best for patients. But Kennestone just opened that new OP tower that NEEDS to get paid for....so here we are. The local Cobb politicians should have a serious talk with WellStar...what is the community benefit of this? Could the $$$ on lawyers and lawsuits be better spent on patients?
Samuel Adams
September 16, 2011
After two different nine hour ordeals at Kennestone, our family decided NEVER to use Kennestone facilities again. They are busier than Grady and don't deal well with it in their ER.

We drive a few extra minutes to Northside, and have always been seen by a physician within 30 minutes, every time. Kennestone is deathly afraid of this competition, and it's starting to show. One of their PR people has also been seen and noted by my neighbors at TSPLOST meetings making fun of citizens who comment, loudly making fun. I did not know she represented WEllstar until someone informed me. What a shame they've resorted to bully tactics.
September 16, 2011
There is no shortage of healthcare so long as its profitable.

Wellstar's worried that by having competition nearby it may have to lower privilege fees, as well as take a loss on payment for services it already renders.

Having more healthcare in a bustling area like this is important.

I think its unreasonable to oppose the relocation. Its Wellstar's money but the taxpayers are entitled to access to competitive and reasonable healthcare.
Bout Money
September 16, 2011
And we are really suppose to be surprised by Wellstar's actions?! This new location is not that close to Wellstar Kennestone. What a huge waste of Wellstar money. But a big paycheck for legal staff. Guess they will go up on patient costs and parking deck fees to cover it. Heaven knows, Wellstar can't make any less millions in profit. The new CEO has a big paycheck that needs to be paid. And the other employees can make it on less, no need to worry about them.
September 16, 2011
We need another choice for a hosp.Maybe the wait in the new hosp er won't be 12-14-16 hrs.
September 16, 2011
It seems our local healthcare system is afraid of a little competition.

Impatient patient
September 16, 2011
They're all for competition and the free market when the talk turns to health care reform, but they're not so keen on competing with each other.
September 16, 2011
So, Wellstar does not want us to have choices? I guess Wendy's will complain next if a BK is is built too close.
Julie Smart
September 16, 2011
Wellstar is getting too greedy and the citizens need this.
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