The 22,500 square foot facility would be located within an existing facility on Friendship Road, according to the announcement. There would be three operating rooms and one endoscopy room and would primarily attract patients for outpatient surgical services who traditionally drive to Northside facilities for procedures.
Northside is preparing for a late December hearing before the state Department of Community Health concerning a Certificate of Need (CON), which is a state permit needed to open the state-of-the-art surgical facility.
As part of the CON application, the Braselton Specialty Surgical Center has pledged to offer charitable health care services to uninsured or underinsured patients with a program similar to one Northside utilizes in Alpharetta and Woodstock. It would partner with local charity clinics for patient referrals, and physicians would donate surgical services. All related charges would also be waived to patients in need. Northside pioneered this charitable program in 2012 as a way to help the area’s most vulnerable who need surgical care.
It should be noted that located in the same area is Northeast Georgia's current medical facility. Sean Couch, Director of Public Relations for Northeast Georgia Medical Center, says the sudden announcement by Northside is misleading. “This has been an ongoing process for them for over a year. In fact, they applied in 2018 at the same time that Northeast Georgia Medical Center did in order to expand services into Braselton.”
Couch explained how the CON process works. “The Department of Community Health requires an organization to explain a need for your services in that community and how you would meet that need – from everything to the equipment, to the patients, to the services offered.” Couch said that the approval process for Northeast Georgia took over a decade while it was held up in different court and legal procedures and emphasized that this is not a fast process for any organization.
Couch is familiar with the process as it is the same one they went through to open their Braselton Medical Center over a year ago. Northside also already went through that same process at the same time. Both hospitals applied in 2018 with similar programs, similar services and similarly designed facilities, with approximately the same square footage.
“It was evident that ambulatory services were needed in that area,” said Couch. “Both Northeast Georgia and Northside saw that need, and basically those two parties applied around the same time in 2018. One application was approved and one was denied. Now Northside is appealing that decision, both their denial and our approval. We just hope that the original decision is upheld.”
The outcome of the hearing will not only affect Northside’s ability to move forward, but also Northeast Georgia’s current facility in operation. Couch reiterates that if the committee overturns the original decision, it could be held up in court for quite some time, if not years.
While it might be possible for the committee to approve both facilities, evidence of previous decisions suggest that it would be very rare for them to allow two similar operations within such close proximity.