GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) — After years of legal battles, Augusta University Health System has been given the green light to build a hospital in Columbia County.
In 2014, AU was awarded a Certificate of Need by the Georgia Department of Community Health to build a 100-bed hospital, equipped with a Level II trauma center, 18-bed emergency department, six operating rooms, 24 intensive care rooms and 76 medical-surgical rooms.
However, Doctor’s Hospital appealed the Certificate of Need. The Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case Tuesday, paving way for AU to move forward with its plans.
AU released the following statement after the ruling:
“This is a day we have been anticipating for quite some time. A dedicated hospital for one of Georgia’s fastest-growing and largest counties will provide immeasurable benefit to our community and especially our patients that call Columbia County home. I now look forward to taking the next step in working with our AU Health caregivers and our partners in Columbia County to proceed with the design, planning and construction process.”Katrina Keefer, CEO of Augusta University Health System
Doctor’s Hospital released the following statement:
“For many years, Doctors Hospital has been the provider of choice for our friends and neighbors in Columbia County. Our physicians and team members have a reputation for providing safe and compassionate care and for giving back to the community.
While we strongly disagree with the court’s decision, it is final.
We were approved to build a free-standing Emergency Room in Evans and will look to further expand access to care across Columbia County, so residents can continue to receive healthcare from their hospital of choice.”Doctor’s Hospital
AU’s hospital will stand in the heart of Grovetown off Exit 190. It bought 82 acres of land in 2017 for the project. The renderings drawn up in 2014 will likely be modified. An AU spokesperson tells NewsChannel 6, “design plans are likely to change to suit the current needs of the county.”
“The planning starts now,” Doug Duncan, the Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, says. “Augusta University did not want to spend money on a project if it was overruled by the courts. We hope to meet with them next week to start the planning process to get the ball rolling.”
Columbia County has grown dramatically since AU first put in its bid to build the hospital. Between 2010 and 2019, the county grew by 26 percent with more than 32,000 people moving to the area.
“I think it’s probably good for some people who may need a hospital a little closer to them,” Whitney Wallace says. “Maybe they don’t have transportation or a way to get there.”
“I think the more, the better,” Mike King adds. “It’s a welcome change.”
King says he drives 20 to 30 minutes for medical services in Augusta. Columbia County’s leaders are hopeful the hospital will not only serve those who live in Grovetown but those living on the outskirts of the county.
“The vast majority of the growth is all the way out to the Appling-Harlem exit,” Duncan explains. “This will serve that part of the population well.”
AU, Doctor’s and University Hospitals have each been awarded Certificates of Need to build freestanding emergency rooms in Columbia County. An AU spokesperson tells NewsChannel 6 its plan for a freestanding emergency room is “being discussed” now that it will move forward with building a hospital.