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Why NGHS is pursuing $80 million rehab center at this Limestone Parkway site
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The former J&J supermarket on Limestone Parkway is surrounded by construction fencing Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. The Northeast Georgia Health System is planning an $80 million rehab center at the site. - photo by Scott Rogers

Northeast Georgia Health System is proposing a new inpatient physical rehabilitation center because expansion of the existing unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville “is not a viable option.”

The hospital “does not have sufficient space within the hospital to add beds or needed therapy or support space” for the unit, which first began offering services in 1989 and “is housed in space that was retrofitted from a psychiatric unit,” according to NGHS’ application for a “certificate of need” for the new center.

NGHS has filed 602 pages in documents with the state for an $80 million, 40-bed rehabilitation center. The 61,500-square-foot facility would be on 8 acres at 2500 Limestone Parkway, where J & J Foods had operated a grocery store between 2005 and 2018, when it closed The Market on Limestone.

The filing is a formal justification for the project.

The state has 120 days to review the request and make a decision, officials have said.

The existing, 24-bed unit “suffers from a severe lack of therapy space, including space to house and utilize state-of-the-art equipment,” according to NGHS.

Further, “only six rooms have in-wall oxygen” and the unit “has undersized patient rooms and bathrooms that are not (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant,” documents state.

Because there’s a shortage of beds in the unit, patients in need of such services “too often experience delays in receiving that care or must forgo that needed level of care altogether,” according to NGHS.

And any delays “adversely impacts patients’ ability to recover to their highest level of functioning, particularly the medically-complex patients.”

The health system “has seen the need for inpatient rehab services grow in recent years,” said Kevin Gohman, director of inpatient rehabilitation, in a previous interview.

As for more details about the building, “we are still very early in the design process and do not yet have details to share,” he said.

A “letter of intent” for the facility was filed Oct. 31 with the Georgia Department of Community Health by Northeast Georgia Rehabilitation Hospital, with NGHS and KND IRF Development 62 LLC listed as the parent companies.

NGHS is currently leasing the space from J & J Foods, which owns the property, “for design work in support of the new Gainesville tower through all of 2023,” Gohman said.

Earlier this year, the health system began work on a 12-story patient tower at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville at 743 Spring St., or 3 miles from the proposed rehab center.

“Sometime in 2024 – depending on the CON process – we plan to prepare the property for the new facility by removing the existing building,” he said.

For the moment, “we are still leasing the property,” Gohman added, “but have negotiated a contract to purchase that is dependent on the approval of the CON. We have not yet purchased the property.”