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WellStar loses round for East Cobb campus

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Northside Hospital has won a round in its continued bout against Marietta-based WellStar Health System over WellStar’s plans to perform outpatient surgery at its proposed East Cobb Health Park.

On July 30, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford J. Dempsey Jr. threw out WellStar’s certificate of need that was issued by the Georgia Department of Community Health in September 2010, ruling it was based on an unconstitutional regulation.

WellStar plans to appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Northside spokesman Russ Davis said only that the decision “validates our arguments regarding the surgical services component of the proposed health park.”

WellStar must have the certificate of need to include a surgery center as part of its East Cobb Health Park.

The health firm has said it will build the $80 million, 200,000-square-foot medical campus at Roswell and Providence Roads with or without the surgery site. DCH, which was also named in Northside’s judicial-review request, is still deciding whether to file its own appeal, spokeswoman Pamela A. Keene said. The deadline to do so is Aug. 29.

WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings was unavailable to answer questions about the turn of events, but spokesman Keith Bowermaster said Northside opposes more health care projects than any other health system in the state.

“We find it troublesome that a Fulton County health care entity objects to a Cobb-based project that would enhance health care to the residents of this area,” Bowermaster said.

Judge Dempsey heard several hours of oral arguments in the case on July 5.

WellStar is waiting until the certificate issue is settled to decide how to proceed with zoning, Bowermaster said. WellStar could choose to seek permission from the Hospital Authority of Cobb County for its site plans, rather than go through the county’s zoning process, which would likely be a lengthier process and require the system to work out concerns of neighbors. The system has been working with an advisory committee of residents and business owners on the project since 2010.

The 23-acre site is currently zoned R-20 residential. Non-surgical services at the WellStar site will likely include an urgent care center, doctor’s offices, women’s health center and spa, a sleep lab, physical therapy, and a retail pharmacy.

Keene, of the state health agency, said certificates of need are decided by the agency’s staff in its office of health planning.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, August 10, 2012. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – WellStar loses round for east Cobb campus)

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