Northeast Georgia Health System plans to open a scaled-down hospital in July on the site of a closed facility in Dahlonega.
The Gainesville-based organization said this week that it will provide an emergency department and a number of inpatient beds on the site of the former Chestatee Regional Hospital, which closed last July.
That operation is expected to be a prelude to a new replacement hospital, also in Lumpkin County, which is envisioned to open in 2022. That facility would be located along Ga. 400, a highway from Atlanta that ends just outside Dahlonega.
The Dahlonega hospital will be the fourth for Northeast Georgia, which runs facilities in Gainesville, Braselton and Winder.
It will be the culmination of a complicated transaction that began to take shape last year, when Northeast Georgia agreed to buy Chestatee Regional’s property and some equipment from hospital owner DL Investment Holdings.
The deal was preceded by a CBS News report on lab billing problems at the Dahlonega hospital, as well as other rural facilities. The CEO of DL Investment Holdings, who was also Chestatee’s CEO at the time, denied the report, calling it “flatly wrong.’’
Northeast Georgia bought the hospital last year for an undisclosed amount, then sold it to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, which is now leasing it to Northeast Georgia. Eventually, the University of North Georgia is expected to relocate some of its health sciences programs and services to the current hospital property.
The new scaled-down hospital will be called Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin. Complete ER services will be available every day around the clock, provided by Northeast Georgia Health System physicians. It will have six ER beds and a small number of inpatient beds as well.
“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,” Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for Northeast Georgia, said in a statement. “We heard them, and we intend to deliver on all three counts.”
Dahlonega is little more than 20 miles north of Gainesville, and Northeast Georgia Health System has been interested for years in expanding into Lumpkin County. In 2015, the system bought 57 acres in the county at the end point of Ga. 400, calling the property a site for a future complex.
“I’ve driven and supported efforts to establish a new hospital in Lumpkin County and expand UNG’s health care programs on the Dahlonega campus, in large part because of the role health care plays in today’s economics,” said Republican state Sen. Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority, in a statement.
“We’ve all seen the growth and prosperity a new hospital and associated development can bring, and we look forward to working alongside [Northeast Georgia] to build a better future for our community,” his statement added.
Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News