GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) announced plans to offer hospital services at the former home of Chestatee Regional Hospital later this year and begin developing a new replacement hospital along Georgia 400 in Lumpkin County.
“We’re thrilled to share this exciting news, which ensures people in and around Lumpkin County will have local access to the high-quality health care they need for generations to come,” says Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS. “We appreciate the patience of the community as we’ve worked to create solutions that are high-quality, sustainable, and deliver on our mission to improve the health of the community in all we do.”
“This is an answered prayer for those of us who have lived and worked in Lumpkin County for decades,” says Donna Whitfield, MD, a fifth-generation Dahlonega native and internal medicine physician with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group who has practiced in Lumpkin County for 18 years. “The roots of NGHS run deep in this area, which it’s helped care for since Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville opened in 1951, and we know there’s no other organization better suited to start a new era of healthcare in this community.”
The NGHS team has already started working to open an emergency department – along with some inpatient beds, imaging equipment and other services – in July 2019 at the existing building that was once home to Chestatee Regional Hospital. The new hospital facility will be called Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin, or NGMC Lumpkin for short. Complete emergency services will be provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at all Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) hospitals.
“Our physicians and Lumpkin County EMS already work very closely together, as the majority of emergency trauma, cardiac and stroke patients from the area have been transported to NGMC Gainesville for years,” says Mohak Davé, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine for NGMC. “Now, we look forward to providing excellent emergency care for people in Lumpkin County and surrounding communities – closer to their homes.”
While offering services at the existing hospital site will preserve the Certificate of Need authority to operate a hospital in Lumpkin County and meet the short-term needs of the community, planning has also begun for a new replacement hospital facility to sit on 57 acres NGHS already owns along Georgia 400, near the intersection with Highway 60. The new facility is tentatively scheduled to open in 2022 and expected to provide emergency services, inpatient medical/surgical care, imaging services and a focus on outpatient surgery.
“When we recently interviewed and surveyed people in the Lumpkin County area, the overwhelming majority told us three things – they need an emergency room, they want a new hospital that meets the needs of the community, and they trust and prefer Northeast Georgia Health System to care for them,” says Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “We heard them, and we intend to deliver on all three counts.”
The number of beds and operating rooms at the new replacement hospital facility will be determined during the planning process, which will also explore innovative ways to deliver care.
“As the population and needs of this area grow, creating a new healthcare destination presents an opportunity to explore new ideas and expand the way people think about hospitals,” says Dr. Whitfield. “I’m extremely interested in understanding how we can use digital technology, for things like virtual visits, and involve aspects of integrative medicine which include holistic care for the mind and spirit – not just the body.”
As the transition from the existing hospital facility to the new hospital facility is on the horizon, planning for how the existing facility will be used long-term is also in the works. NGHS currently leases the former Chestatee Regional Hospital property from The University System of Georgia Board of Regents. At some point in the future, the University of North Georgia will likely relocate some of its health sciences programs and services to the property.
“These positive changes in our local healthcare landscape create exciting opportunities to enhance the way we teach and prepare our students,” says Dr. Bonita Jacobs, president of the University of North Georgia (UNG). “We look forward to the potential to collaborate with NGHS and other local providers.”
Other local leaders are optimistic about other ways a new hospital could impact the community.
“I’ve driven and supported efforts to establish a new hospital in Lumpkin County and expand UNG’s healthcare programs on the Dahlonega campus, in large part because of the role healthcare plays in today’s economics,” says Senator Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority. “We’ve all seen the growth and prosperity a new hospital and associated development can bring, and we look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”
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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Northeast Georgia Health Systems (NGHS) has reached a conditional agreement to buy Chestatee Regional Hospital (CRH) property and some equipment, contingent on the results of a due diligence period.
A specific date will be set for the hospital closing during due diligence. Under the terms of the agreement, CRH owner DL Investment Holdings, LLC is required to notify federal regulators of plans to close the hospital later this year, which would help assure existing liabilities are not tied to future owners or operators.
“We remain advocates for our patients and staff, and vow to provide the highest standard of care through this transition,” said Cathy Sanford, chief operating officer for CRH. “We’re pleased this agreement provides the community and NGHS a fresh start to address the challenges facing small, rural hospitals.”
NGHS already provides other healthcare services in the area, including an Urgent Care on Longbranch Road, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, including an OB/GYN practice, a heart center and a rehabilitation institute, providing outpatient physical rehab services. Some NGHS physicians also practice in Dahlonega and serve or have served on CRH’s medical staff. Lastly, a 57-acre property near Georgia 400 and Highway 60 was purchased in 2015 by the hospital system as a “forward-thinking effort.”
“Our immediate goal is to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County after the hospital closes,” said Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “Given what information we’ve received about existing resources, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to complete that assessment.”
“Our long-term vision is to develop an innovative strategy to promote health and wellness in the community while elevating the level of care, which will include evaluating the possibility of a newly constructed facility on that property,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, state legislators have earmarked dollars in the state’s 2019 fiscal year budget for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to eventually purchase the current CRH property from NGHS. The purchase would require a final vote of approval by the Board of Regents later this year. If approved, the Board of Regents would lease the property to NGHS.
At some point in the future, the property would be used to help the Dahlonega Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG) meet its growing educational needs.
During the interim, Lumpkin County officials will work with NGHS and other area healthcare providers to help ensure residents have access to emergency care. Lumpkin County officials said roughly 37 percent of EMS patients were taken to CRH in 2017; the remainder were transported to other regional hospitals.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
DAHLONEGA — Two Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies are being hailed as heroes today after they rescued two elderly residents whose home on Rider Road Spur caught fire late Sunday evening.
Sgt. Cory Gearin and Deputy Myron Ward were the first to respond when Lumpkin County Dispatch received a call that a residence was on fire and two elderly people were believed to be inside.
Gearin and Ward responded immediately and arrived at the scene at approximately 11:45 pm. They observed smoke coming from the residence and rushed inside to find John and Bernice Rider and lead them out of the burning home.
They quickly searched the home to ensure there were no other occupants then grabbed fire extinguishers from their patrol vehicles and attempted to extinguish the fire in the main bedroom. Once the Fire Department arrived the officers turned the scene over to them.
Neither of the occupants suffered any injuries but both officers were transported by EMS to Chestatee Regional Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Chris Pfrogner said, “We are very proud of the selfless actions exhibited by Sgt. Gearin and Deputy Ward. Both officers placed the value of helping the occupants of the house over their own safety. This level of selflessness and dedication to serve and protect the citizens of Lumpkin County is a credit to themselves and Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.”