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Open Heart—Opposing Hospitals' Appeal is Granted


LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.—Gwinnett Medical Center has received notice that an appeal filed by opposing hospitals will potentially prevent GMC from establishing a desperately needed open heart surgical program within the county.  The notice came in the form of a decision from a Certificate of Need Appeal Panel  hearing officer assigned to hear the appeal filed by Piedmont Hospital, Emory University Hospital and Emory Crawford Long Hospital (now Emory University Hospital Midtown).

“It is concerning that this appeal stands to deny the members of our community timely access to an open heart program,” said Phil Wolfe, President & CEO of Gwinnett Medical Center.  “Simply put, the people of Gwinnett need better access to  critical open heart surgery services, and we’ve been working diligently on their behalf to bring those services to the community.  For Piedmont and Emory to delay and potentially derail that effort is disturbing.”

Wolfe continued, “While this is a disappointing development in this already lengthy process, we believe the state made the correct decision last year in granting GMC a Certificate of Need for open heart.  We will do everything in our power to continue to fight for what we know is right for the people of Gwinnett County, and we believe we will ultimately prevail.”

Gwinnett Medical Center applied for a Certificate of Need for its open heart program in January 2008.  As a part of the state’s review process, other hospitals were afforded an opportunity to file opposition, which each of the three appealing hospitals did.  GMC received its approval in June 2008.  In that decision, the Department of Community Health in part stated:
"Several hundred letters of support were submitted ... from all segments of the community ... the overriding theme of the letters from doctors was concern and angst over the limited care available to patients presenting at GMC, due to the absence of an open heart surgery program. Patient outcomes could have been much better if they did not have to be transferred or redirected to existing open heart surgery providers."

"The proposed project will improve the quality, access and overall efficiency of adult open heart surgery services available within the local health care delivery system."

“As Gwinnett County's traffic congestion continues to increase, the creation of an open heart surgery program at the center of the county significantly improves the ability of the residents of Gwinnett County to access timely care, thereby reducing heart damage and the likelihood of poor health outcomes."

Gwinnett Medical Center will now prepare an appeal requesting that the Commissioner of the Department of Community Health reinstate the Department’s original approval of the Gwinnett Medical Center Open Heart Surgery program. The Commissioner of the Department of Community Health  is expected to make a final administrative decision by July 17, 2009.  

Further appeals are possible as the Certificate of Need process allows parties to seek court review within 30 days of the final administrative decision.

“While we hope that we will ultimately secure open heart through the administrative appeal process, GMC is prepared to seek judicial review if necessary,” added Wolfe.  “If the commissioner reinstates our approval , we would hope that Piedmont and Emory would not further delay our program by seeking judicial review.”