The Northeast Georgia Medical Center has the green light to move forward with a hospital in South Hall after a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.
"We are extremely pleased the (Supreme Court) has issued this decision," said Jim Gardner, Northeast Georgia Health Systems president and CEO. "It's been a long journey and we're glad it appears to be over. We can now move forward to expand our cutting-edge community-based outpatient and hospital care to the South Hall community."
In 2006, the medical center filed a certificate of need to build a 100-bed hospital in Braselton, which was subsequently approved by the Georgia Department of Community Health in 2007.
Barrow Regional Medical Center appealed the approval twice before the Barrow County Superior Court ruled in its favor. The Barrow center argued the new hospital's location would jeopardize its facility, and Barrow County Superior Court Senior Judge Bob Adamson ruled in Barrow's favor.
Christopher S. Anulewicz, one of the attorneys representing Barrow Regional Medical Center, said the Health Management Associates Inc.-owned hospital is a good medical facility that will continue to grow.
"Barrow Regional Medical Center continues to be a leading provider of quality health care services to the surrounding community," said Blake Watts, Barrow Regional CEO.
"We are disappointed in the recent ruling; however, the growth of our service lines and facility over the last few years gives us great confidence in the future of Barrow Regional Medical Center."
Although Northeast Georgia has been granted permission to proceed with its Braselton facility, officials say they have a lot of things to consider before breaking ground.
Among other things, officials will have to ponder the impacts of the economic downturn and implications of federal health care legislation.
"It would be imprudent of us to assume that nothing has changed and doggedly move ahead," said Gardner.
"The community expects a lot of us and we hold ourselves to high standards of due diligence. We want to make sure that we're doing the right thing, the right way and for the right reasons."
While the medical center will still be working within the "basic framework" that was approved three years ago, some of the projects details may look a bit different.
"We intend to be very deliberate over the next 12 to 18 months and re-conceptualize how this will all unfold," Gardner said. "We'll be looking at the nuances like what services we will offer and how we will handle the opening. Based on what is known today, we estimate that it will open (around 2015)."
Times regional staff writer LeAnne Akin contributed to this report.