A bomb is exactly what citizens are calling this information that they say came out of nowhere. With continuing questions of what this means to Gilmer County, FYN sat down with Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority), Chuck Scragg in an interview Wednesday.
As Director Scragg said, the impact of that information and the potential loss to Gilmer County could be quite substantial as losing a $31,000,000 business, which the hospital as a whole contributes to the county, would be a large impediment on the economy, stating, “in 2006 there were 9,035 jobs in Gilmer County, right now, today, there are 7,200 jobs.” Losing a business is losing jobs.
In a county that is still not recovering from the recession, it will be much harder to entice companies to join and move into Gilmer county with no inpatient care services. Director Scragg said when people visit for business scouting, after seeing potential sites, there are always three things they ask to see in the county; Schools, Downtown Area, and Healthcare Facilities.
While FYN has learned of a non-disclosure agreement covering the leasing or closing of the Medical Center, FYN has continued requesting comments from Piedmont Mountainside about the Transition and Services they would provide for Gilmer County considering there is a deadline of January 27 to contest the issue and the filing of a Request for Determination.
Citizens and employees of the Medical Center both are commenting and responding to this information saying “there are employees there that depend on their job to support their family” and many saying this is the first they have heard of the possible closing. With this being the first information they have received, many are still questioning why they were not informed earlier with the deadline only a week away?
House Speaker David Ralston’s office also released the following statement concerning the hospital via Kaleb McMichen, Spokesman.
Under President Obama’s administration, actions at the federal level have driven up the costs of healthcare including deductibles and premiums of commercial health insurance policies as well as the state’s portion of Medicaid spending. Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctors across Georgia, particularly those in rural areas, are struggling to cope with these changing financial realities.
As recently as last week, Speaker Ralston has said time and again that maintaining access to high-quality healthcare for Georgia’s citizens is a priority. He remains engaged with stakeholders and is working with them to find the best of available solutions to preserve access to hospital care in Gilmer County.
According to Director Scragg, the Greater Gilmer JDA will be having a Special Called Meeting on Monday morning at 9:00am at the Gilmer Chamber. We at FYN have also received the Agenda for this meeting, one of the major items on the agenda being ‘Review & Action on Hospital DET.’ This is an open meeting for citizens to sit in to listen and participate in a Citizens Wishing to Speak Section.
Listen to the full interview with Executive Director Chuck Scragg below:
Sunlink Inc. / Southern Health Corp. of Ellijay may soon be closing the North Georgia Medical Center located in Ellijay.
Piedmont Mountainside Hospital Inc. has made an offer for a five year lease for the Emergency Room Care area of the hospital. The two are awaiting approval from the State Department of Community Health that is due by January 28th.
In a document obtained by FetchYourNews, Piedmont has submitted a Georgia Certificate of Need, Request for Determination. In the document, Piedmont Mountainside stated:
Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Inc. (“Piedmont Mountainside”) proposes pursuant to this Determination to acquire existing equipment and supplies, and lease approximately 11, 000 square feet of space at North Georgia Medical Center, located at 1362 South Main Street, Ellijay, GA. As a result of such acquisition and long term Lease, Piedmont Mountainside proposes to offer outpatient emergency department services at the current location of the Emergency Department (” ED”) of North Georgia Medical Center (” NGMC”). The present owner of NGMC, Southern Health Corporation of Ellijay (” SHC”)— a subsidiary of Sunlink Healthcare— intends to close North Georgia Medical Center and cease offering all short stay hospital services, including emergency services, in that facility. Such a closure will leave a troubling gap in the provision of emergency healthcare services to the rural community in Gilmer County.
This Request for Determination could be contested, but if it is not contested and is approved by the state, it is not clear when the inpatient side of the hospital will close and Piedmont Mountainside will take over the emergency room.
FYN spoke with North Georgia Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Earl Whiteley about the possible closing of the hospital. Whiteley said that although the hospital would no longer have inpatient care the positive was that the community would still have emergency care services. If a person came in the emergency room and had to be admitted, the patient would then be moved to a hospital of their choice.
Many of these patients, however, are expected to travel to Piedmont Mountainside in Pickens County. Whiteley went on to tell us that Sunlink Inc. would continue to operate the nursing home and no changes should be expected there. Additionally, the Piedmont campus on Industrial Dr will be in the lease as well and is expected to continue operation.
To further understand the impact of this to Gilmer County, FYN spoke with Executive Director Chuck Scragg of the Greater Gilmer JDA who said
The UGA study said the Hospital and nursing home has a yearly $31 million dollar economic impact to Gilmer County. We will loose very high paying jobs here, as well as other sources of revenue as people will go to Mountainside Piedmont in Jasper for hospitalization. This change will take effect unless we contest it. We only have until January 27th to do so.
Whiteley indicated in the interview that rural hospitals are ‘under the gun’ with this making six rural hospitals to close in Georgia in the last two years. Currently the hospital employs 332 employees throughout all campuses.
While FYN has not learned of any final operating days yet, we are continuing to research this project as it develops and will update you as information becomes available. You can also read, in its entirety, the Request for Determination.
When we asked about details concerning the purchase price that Piedmont was paying the hospital, Whiteley referred us to Bob Thornton of Sunlink inc. for details on the transaction. FYN has reached out to Thornton and has not heard back from him at the time of this article.
FYN has also reached out to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston for a comment about a hospital in his district possibly closing. FYN has also reached out to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper for a comment concerning the transition and what citizens can expect. We currently await responses from both.
At this time, we understand the Request had also been sent to the County Commissioners and both City Mayors.