DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Chestatee Regional Hospital will close its doors at midnight on July 27 but Lumpkin County residents will not be without healthcare options.
Northeast Georgia Health Systems (NGHS) is increasing access to Urgent Care services and stabilizing primary care in Lumpkin County. Urgent Care Dahlonega has extended its hours to be open from 8 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week. The office, located in front of Home Depot, at the intersection of Ga, 400 and Highway 60, treats minor injuries and illnesses for people aged six months and older.
In a recent press release, Tammy Soles, administrative director for Urgent Care Dahlonega, said, “We anticipate seeing more people coming in for care after work and when accidents happen later in the evening, and our staff is prepared to care for them.”
Meanwhile, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG) Dahlonega Internal Medicine recently welcomed a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner – Raymond Polk and Vicki Simmons – to the group. They are now accepting new patients. Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 706-864-1580. Polk and Simmons previously worked at Dahlonega Family Practice until its recent closure.
“We’re thrilled we are able to keep these talented providers in Lumpkin County,” said Tina Walden, vice president of Operations for NGPG. “Primary care is the foundation of wellness and preventive health care for a community, so preserving that access is key.”
Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery said, “Roughly 37 percent of Lumpkin County EMS patients were taken to Chestatee Regional Hospital in 2017, and we believe a number of those patients could have been appropriately treated in a different setting – like an urgent care center or primary care office. Increased access to those services will definitely help people in this community get the care they need, and the timing couldn’t be better.”
NGHS is still in a conditional agreement with the current owner of Chestatee Regional Hospital – DL Investment Holdings, LLC – to purchase the hospital property and some equipment.
“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made during due diligence, and we are optimistic we will finalize the agreement next month,” said Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “Once the current owner closes the hospital, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County.”
Options for re-establishing services include possibly opening some services in the current hospital building; potentially building a new facility on 57 acres NGHS owns near the intersection of Highway 60 and Georgia 400; or exploring other ideas that meet the needs of the community.
“We’re still open to all possibilities, and we look forward to continuing to work with Lumpkin County leaders and the community to envision the short-term and long-term future of health care in this area,” said Smith.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents and NGHS have finalized an agreement for the Board of Regents to purchase the hospital property from NGHS later this year. The agreement calls for the Board of Regents to lease the property to NGHS for up to three years. At some point in the future, the University of North Georgia will likely relocate some of its programs and services to the current hospital property.
“Given the many challenges facing Georgia’s rural communities, this is a rare win-win for ensuring access to health care and educational opportunities for generations to come,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS.
In addition to the Urgent Care center and two NGPG primary care practices, NGHS currently provides other healthcare services in Lumpkin County including:
- Women’s care through NGPG’s OB/GYN practice
- Cardiology care through The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center
- Physical rehabilitation services through The Rehabilitation Institute.
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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) purchase of Chestatee Regional Hospital (CRH) has opened up an opportunity for the University of North Georgia (UNG) to meet the school’s growing educational needs.
NGHS officials announced Friday an agreement to sell the facility to UNG. While the school will not be able to occupy the building for a couple of years, it plans to house nursing, physical therapy, and counseling education programs, as well as two existing, outreach clinics from the counseling and physical therapy departments designed to serve specialized health needs of the community.
UNG President Bonita Jacobs said, “UNG has been exploring opportunities to add academic space for the Dahlonega Campus, and this acquisition will have a transformative impact across multiple academic programs. The healthcare sector is a broad-reaching, high-demand career area, and the facility could serve as a catalyst for interdisciplinary opportunities and collaborations to support workforce development needs, such as advanced technologies, informatics, and analytics.”
Jacobs thanked Gov. Nathan Deal and State Sen. Steve Gooch and the Board of Regents for their leadership in facilitating the purchase that will ensure healthcare for this rural community long-term, while also improving healthcare education opportunities.
State legislators have earmarked dollars in the state’s 2019 fiscal year budget for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to purchase the property. Acquisition will require final approval by the Board of Regents later this year. If approved, the Board of Regents initially would lease the property to NGHS.
Meanwhile, NGHS officials will conduct an assessment of the community’s healthcare needs, including evaluating the possibility of a new facility in Lumpkin County, just south of the intersection of Georgia Highways 400 and 60.
“Chestatee Regional Hospital has been a vital resource for Lumpkin County and an integral part of healthcare in the region for more than 40 years,” said Carol Burrell, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of NGHS. “We look forward to working with the community to better understand what care it needs and collaborating to create a plan to meet those needs in the future.”
CRH 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. A specific date will be set for the hospital closing during a required due diligence period.
“Our immediate goal is to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County after the hospital closes,” Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS, said. “Given what information we’ve received about existing resources, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to complete that assessment.”
Gooch, who also serves as executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority, said the deal would both stabilize the future of healthcare for Northeast Georgia and allow UNG expanded academic space.