The Marietta-based company has filed a request for an agency review hearing with the Georgia Department of Community Health to challenge Northside Hospital’s proposal to replace its 84-bed facility on Hospital Road with a new facility on a 100-acre tract behind Canton Marketplace.
WellStar officials said the filing is the final step in getting the department to consider their request.
“WellStar believes the hearing officer erred in granting Northside an exemption for a Certificate of Need (CON) to relocate Northside Hospital-Cherokee because Northside has failed to offer sufficient proof that it will not expand services at the new hospital,” Spokesman Keith Bowermaster said. “The size and scope of the project indicate that, once completed, the new facility will greatly expand the services currently provided at Northside Hospital-Cherokee.”
If the request is denied, Bowermaster said the company could file an appeal in court.
A department hearing officer ruled in February that Northside did not need a certificate of need to move forward with its plans, striking down WellStar’s contention.
Northside Spokesman Russ Davis said WellStar continues to make the same “frivolous arguments” in its opposition to their plans.
“Their arguments are baseless and are clearly a continued attempt to delay the project,” Davis said. “WellStar simply does not want the competition.”
Department of Community Health spokeswoman Pamela Keene said Department of Community Health Commissioner David Cook or his designee will review WellStar’s request, but didn’t say when he would decide if it would go forward.
Northside originally filed a letter of determination with the Georgia Department of Community Health in early August to replace its current hospital, arguing it didn’t need a certificate of need because they planned to relocate within a three-mile radius and not expand health services.
WellStar filed a formal objection to Northside’s CON exemption request in September, but its objection was rejected by the state Department of Community Health in October.
It filed another appeal in November, which was the request that was rejected last month.
Chris Kane, senior vice president of strategic business development with WellStar, said the company is not opposed to the project per se, but the company maintains Northside should not have been granted an exemption as they allege the company has not been upfront about its plans.
“WellStar, other health care providers and the citizens of Cherokee County are entitled to obtain factual information necessary to assess Northside’s plans,” Kane said “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.”
Davis disputed Kane’s assessment, adding the hospital has “been fully candid about our plans at the new site.”
“WellStar’s claims that Northside failed to provide necessary information are completely baseless and were rejected twice already,” he added.
While there are future plans to build other medical facilities on the site, Northside officials contend the relocation is solely needed to replace its current 84-bed hospital.
Along with the new 84-bed hospital, the campus will eventually include a women’s center, a multi-specialty medical office building and cancer center, a parking deck with 600 parking spots and a 300-spot surface parking lot.
The project is expected to cost about $250 million and the hospital is expected to open by March 2015.