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Health system seeks appeal of ruling on South Hall hospital

State Court of Appeals asked to hear case after Barrow County judge denied facility

POSTED: January 15, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center has asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to hear an appeal of a Barrow County judge’s denial of the certificate of need to construct a new hospital in South Hall County.

Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson of Winder issued the ruling in December in an appeal brought by Barrow Regional Medical Center. Adamson’s ruling reversed a decision by the Georgia Department of Community Health that approved the hospital.

Unlike in previous stages in the case, NGHS does not have an automatic right to appeal in the case. The action filed Wednesday is a petition for a discretionary appeal, essentially asking the appeals court to hear the case. If granted, a direct appeal of the case would be heard by a panel of appellate judges.

In the petition, attorneys for Northeast Georgia Medical Center argue that Adamson overstepped his authority in favor of the local hospital.

"The Barrow court improperly engaged in health planning at the judicial appellate level, failed to grant the required deference to DCH, improperly ignored substantial evidence of record supporting DCH’s decision, substituted its judgment for that of DCH, and committed other reversible errors," the petition stated.

In a Nov. 24 hearing in Winder, former state Attorney General Michael Bowers, who represents Barrow Medical Center, questioned the state’s decision to allow a change in the application.

The original petition was to transfer 100 beds from the Lanier Park campus of the medical center to the proposed new facility in Braselton. In April 2007, NGHS amended its application for a brand-new facility. DCH granted the certificate of need on April 27, 2007.

The health system plans to move the current Lanier Park capacity to its main campus on Spring Street when the North Patient Tower is completed in the spring.

In his ruling, Adamson sided with Bowers’ argument regarding the change to allow 100 completely new beds.

"To not give complete and due attention to the addition of 100 beds is an abdication of the department’s responsibility to limit health care facilities to only those which are cost effective and not unnecessarily duplicative," Adamson wrote in his order.

Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Tymchuk said the health system remains hopeful that the appeals court will reverse the ruling and uphold the decision of the Department of Community Health.

Bowers said Wednesday that his client plans to "vigorously fight the petition."

The Barrow hospital and DCH will have an opportunity to respond before the appeals court decides whether to hear the case.



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