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Medical Center expands Braselton plans
Decision on South Hall hospital rests with state Supreme Court
0526MEDICAL
Chad Bolton, Northeast Georgia Health System director of planning, speaks at a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce South Hall Business Coalition meeting Tuesday morning at Medical Plaza 1 in Braselton.

In the next two years, Braselton residents may see an additional structure going up near Medical Plaza 1 at River Place.

The structure on the 119-acre site off Thompson Mill Road won’t be Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s anticipated South Hall hospital, but it could be the center’s Medical Plaza 2.

“While there is no definitive timeline for the next medical office building, this future medical office expansion will be an essential building block for the future hospital,” said Melissa Tymchuk, Northeast Georgia Medical Center spokeswoman.

“We have been very pleased with the community’s response to the services and practices offered at Medical Plaza 1 and anticipate that demand for future services and specialities will support the need for the next building in the next 18 to 24 months.”

While waiting for its case to move through the courts, medical center staff have been completing groundwork for a new hospital in Braselton.

“The fact is, you’ve gotta have physicians down here,” said Chad Bolton, Northeast Georgia Health System director of planning.

“This community has a great need for 24-hour emergency room services and for in-patient services that the hospital will provide, but you can’t just drop a hospital in the middle of this 119-acre campus and be successful.

“In real estate it’s location, location, location — but with a hospital it’s physicians, physicians, physicians — so we continue to build that physician community down here. To get have a hospital, we have to have physicians here to support it and we continue working on that as fast as the community demands it and needs it.”

At Tuesday’s Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s South Hall Business Coalition meeting, Bolton gave the group an update on the organization’s South Hall medical facilities.

To help build its medical community base, the organization created Medical Plaza 1 at River Place, near the front corner of the expected home of the future hospital. The plaza houses physicians specializing in everything from allergies to urology and everything in-between.

“We’re close to 85 percent occupied now and it continues to fill up,” Bolton said.

“I think since the Court of Appeals issued their approval of the hospital, it seems like there’s been a surge in physician interest since they know that the hospital is on track.”

In 2006, the medical center filed a certificate of need with the state to build a hospital in South Hall, which was initially approved, Bolton said.

That decision was appealed by Barrow Regional Medical Center, which claimed that Northeast Georgia’s 100-bed facility would create “unfair competition” and possible “financial ruin” for its 56-bed facility on Ga. 53, about 11 miles away.

Barrow County Superior Court ruled in favor of the Barrow Medical Center, but that decision was overruled in March by the Georgia Court of Appeals. The case now awaits a decision from the Georgia Supreme Court.

“There’s not a definitive timeline in this juncture of the court system that we’re in now, we’re holding out hope that we’ll get an answer from them before they take a summer recess,” Bolton said.

Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Northeast Georgia, the system would need to have the hospital completed in around five years. But it could be done in as little as three years after final approval is given, Bolton says.

“We knew it would take 3-5 years to get everything approved, so we are right where we thought we’d be timewise,” Bolton said.

“Once we get through the (certificate of need) process we will know a little better about when the hospital will open its doors.”

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