WellStar Health System has dropped its objection to Northside Hospital’s plans to replace its Canton hospital with a new facility at Interstate 575 and Highway 20.
The company took out a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s Cherokee Tribune, the county’s legal organ, to announce its plans.
Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood applauded WellStar’s decision.
“Hopefully they are clear now to go ahead with what I guess would be the first phase,” he said.
The Georgia Department of Community Health earlier this month upheld Northside’s plans to relocate the replacement hospital from its current location on Hospital Road to a 100-acre tract behind Canton Marketplace.
The department upheld a ruling by a hearing officer in February that Northside did not need a certificate of need to move forward with its plans, striking down WellStar’s contention that it did.
The hospital is expected to cost about $250 million and to open by March 2015.
The Cherokee hospital is not the only facility the two companies are battling about.
WellStar President and CEO Reynold Jennings said Wednesday that although Northside’s “application and public statements were unclear, we will accept Northside’s recent statement that it will not offer any new or expanded clinical services at its new hospital facility.”
“You should know, however, that while we have dropped our opposition to this project, Northside continues to oppose WellStar’s plans to offer new services at our proposed East Cobb Health Park,” Jennings said. “In fact, Northside recently filed a lawsuit against us to block our project.”
Jennings went on to say the company’s commitment to Cherokee residents would continue to grow as they plan to add more doctors and services to the county.
“We are the market leader in Cherokee and will stay true to our mission of creating and delivering high quality hospital, physician and healthcare related services that improve the health and well-being of the individuals and communities we serve,” he said.
Northside Atlanta spokesman Russ Davis said the company is “pleased with this outcome,” but reiterated why it is challenging WellStar’s plans in east Cobb.
The company, Davis said, is asking the court to review “the legality of the decision allowing WellStar to circumvent the ambulatory surgery standards and criteria.”
Davis said Northside said the recent decision to allow WellStar to move forward is inconsistent with Georgia Supreme Court precedent and an opinion issued by the state Attorney General’s Office in 2005.
WellStar launched an assault on Northside’s plans after the Atlanta-based company last August filed a letter of determination last August with the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Determination requests are frequently filed when a health care provider wants to ensure a service it is contemplating is exempt from the certificate of need review.
WellStar filed a formal objection to Northside’s CON exemption request in September, but its objection was rejected by the state Department of Community Health in October.
WellStar also appealed in November and March, but both objections were denied by the state.
WellStar had said the size and scope of the project indicate that, once completed, the new facility will greatly expand the services now provided at Northside Hospital-Cherokee.
Though there are future plans to build other medical facilities on the site, Northside officials contend the relocation is solely needed to replace its 84-bed hospital.
Along with the new 84-bed hospital, the campus will eventually include a women’s center, a multi-specialty medical office building and cancer center, a parking deck with 600 parking spots and a 300-spot surface parking lot.