While the Georgia Department of Community Health upheld Northside Hospital’s plans to relocate its Canton facility on Friday, WellStar Health System is evaluating its options on whether to appeal the most recent decision by the state that upheld previous rulings in favor of Northside, said WellStar spokesman Keith Bowermaster.
Bowermaster said the company could still file a lawsuit in Cobb or Fulton county superior court to seek a judicial review of the state department’s ruling.
The department upheld a ruling by a hearing officer in February that Northside did not need a certificate of need to move forward with its plans, striking down WellStar’s contention that it did. The project is expected to cost about $250 million and the hospital is expected to open by March 2015.
Northside Hospital commended the department’s most recent ruling.
“Northside Hospital is pleased that the commissioner’s office has upheld all previous affirmative decisions rendered by the DCH,” said Northside Hospital spokesman Russ Davis. “The citizens of Cherokee County are overwhelmingly in support of Northside’s plans for the replacement hospital.”
WellStar would have 30 days from last Friday’s ruling to file any appeal.
“However, it should be pointed out that the ruling is based on Northside’s representation that it will not offer any new or expanded clinical services at the relocated facility — a fact that WellStar has repeatedly asked for and Northside has refused to state publicly,” Bowermaster said.
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 was contested by WellStar after Northside filed a letter of determination last August with the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Determination requests are frequently filed when a health care provider wants to ensure a service it is contemplating is exempt from the CON review. 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.
WellStar filed another appeal in November, which was rejected in February. The latest decision comes on the heels of WellStar’s appeal in mid-March.
WellStar contends the size and scope of the project indicate that, once completed, the new facility will greatly expand the services now provided at Northside Hospital-Cherokee.
Though there are future plans to build other medical facilities on the site, Northside officials contend the relocation is solely needed to replace its 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.
Bowermaster said Northside will be “held accountable to the community and DCH that they will abide by this requirement and the community should assume that they are simply getting a new, larger building but no new or expanded services.”
Davis added Northside has been in compliance with the certificate of need process and “we are hopeful that this final decision from the state will cause WellStar to cease its continued efforts to delay this project.”