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Tuesday July 7th, 2015 12:40AM

Governor predicts Medicaid budget challenge at 'Blessing of the Ground'

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
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BRASELTON - Governor Nathan Deal said Sunday in Braselton that the effects of federal Affordable Health Care Act will present a major funding challenge for Medicaid in upcoming state budget discussions even though the program won't be expanded.

The Governor was the featured speaker at Northeast Georgia Health System's 'Blessing of the Ground' for its new 100-bed hospital.

Governor Deal said he was glad the new south Hall hospital is moving ahead inspite of the debate over what he called 'Obamacare.'

"We already are experiencing what people refer to as the 'wood working' effect of Obamacare as it moves toward its full implementation in 2014. It's to the point that the funding at the state level of our current Medicaid program is very, very challenging during this upcoming budget session."

An estimated 500 people attended the Blessing of the Ground where land clearance is already under way. NGMC Braselton Vice President Anthony Williamson said when the $200-million-dollar facility is complete by early 2015, area residents would have medical care close to home.

"It's going to give them their own hospital that will be something they can go to when they need care as opposed to having to travel," Williamson said.

NGMC Braselton will be the state's first completely new hospital in over 20 years. The River Place campus already has one medical office building housing urgent care and an imaging center. A second medical office building is also scheduled to open in early 2015.

The new hospital, according to Public Relations Director Melissa Tymchuk, will bring new medical services modeled on existing programs at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville. Among those are heart, cancer, surgery (focusing on outpatient surgery) and emergency services.

Vice President of Marketing Tracy Vardeman said instead of a traditional ground breaking, Northeast Georgia Health Systems decided a blessing of the site was more appropriate.

"This is where people will be cared and nurtured and hopefully brought back to remarkable health and we just thought that the blessing was a great way to approach that," Vardeman said.

Father Eric Hill of Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Reverend John Batusic of Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church and Pastor Earl Pirkle of Central Baptist Church led the audience in a responsive blessing of the grounds, the building and the people.
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