Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) has reached a conditional agreement with the owner of Chestatee Regional Hospital (CRH) – DL Investment Holdings, LLC – to purchase the hospital property and some equipment. The agreement is contingent upon the results of a due diligence period.
“Chestatee Regional Hospital has been a vital resource for Lumpkin County and an integral part of health care in the region for more than 40 years,” said Carol Burrell, president and 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.”
Under the terms of the agreement, 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.
“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.”
A specific date will be set for the hospital closing during due diligence.
“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.”
During the interim, Lumpkin County officials will work with NGHS and other area healthcare providers to help ensure residents have access to emergency care.
“First, we will work to ensure emergency calls are routed to the most appropriate place for care,” said Chris Dockery, chairman of the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners. “Roughly 37 percent of Lumpkin County EMS patients were taken to CRH in 2017, and we believe a number of those patients could have been appropriately treated in a different care setting. The other 63 percent of those patients were taken to other hospitals in the region.”
NGHS already provides other healthcare services in Lumpkin County through:
- an Urgent Care Center on Longbranch Road, which cared for more than 8,500 people last year and is projected to treat more than 16,000 people in 2018
- Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, which includes two primary care practices and an OB/GYN practice
- The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, a physician practice that includes four cardiologists and an electrophysiologist
- The Rehabilitation Institute, which provides outpatient physical rehabilitation services
“NGHS has a rich history of serving Lumpkin County residents for more than 60 years through Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville and physician practices like mine in Dahlonega,” says Donna Whitfield, MD, a primary care physician with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group. “Plus, some NGHS physicians currently serve on CRH’s medical staff – or have in the past – and know the community well.”
In August 2015, NGHS purchased a 57-acre property in Lumpkin County – just south of the intersection of Georgia 400 and Highway 60 – as a forward-thinking effort to prepare for the community’s future healthcare needs.
“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.
“I was happy to support the funding of this acquisition in the state budget to enable UNG to expand and grow its healthcare programs on the Dahlonega campus,” said Senator Steve Gooch, who also serves as executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority. “The community has been anxiously awaiting this day, and we look forward to working with NGHS as they develop their plans for the future.”
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ABOUT NORTHEAST GEORGIA HEALTH SYSTEM
Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 800,000 people across the region through three hospital campuses and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has three campuses – NGMC Gainesville, NGMC Braselton and NGMC Barrow – with a total of 713 beds and medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. Learn more at www.nghs.com.