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State OKs hospital construction

BRASELTON - South Hall County residents will have a new medical office center by August 2008 and a new hospital by 2012.

The state Department of Community Health approved the Northeast Georgia Health System's application to build a nonprofit, 100-bed hospital on 119 acres off Ga. Highway 211.

Both facilities will be paid for by tax-exempt bonds.

The fast-growing area just off Interstate 85 near Braselton borders Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties. Nearby stands Chateau Elan, Road Atlanta and numerous residential developments, including The Village at Deaton Creek next door, a community serving residents age 55 and older.

Site preparation will begin this summer with the hospital's opening scheduled contingent with the completion of the new, four-lane Ga. Highway 347.

The hospital will offer medical, surgical, emergency and diagnostic services, outpatient rehabilitation, orthopedics and some specialty medical services.

Initially, patients will be unable to get obstetrical care or open-heart surgery. However, those services could be added later as community demand increases, said Jim Gardner, president and CEO of the Northeast Georgia Health System.

"If you believe the projections for the Braselton/Hoschton area, it could easily support a 300-bed hospital in time," Gardner said. "We looked at where hospitals are relative to population. That I-85 corridor is one of the fastest growing in the state and it has no access to emergency care, there are significant road issues and not insignificant medical services."

Both Barrow Regional Medical Center and Emory Hospital of Johns Creek filed letters of concern with the state questioning the need for a hospital in South Hall County, said Chad Bolton, the Northeast Georgia Health System's planning director. Those two hospitals can appeal the state's decision within 30 days, Bolton said.

Officials at Barrow Regional Medical will file an appeal, said CEO Vickie Demers.

"It is just over our service line and it will affect us in competition," Demers said.

Gwinnett County's health care professionals have plenty to do within their own boundaries, said Mark Mullin, Gwinnett Medical Center's director of planning.

"We have no opposition to a South Hall hospital," Mullin said. "The distance from Lawrenceville and the time span - five years out (with population growth) we will have more than enough to do."

Medical center

construction to begin soon

Site work will begin in four to six weeks on a 100,000-square-foot medical office center that will occupy the acreage's front 12 acres.

"It will share an entrance with The Villages of Deaton Creek," Gardner said.

The medical office center will house a clinic as well as a large internal medicine group and a variety of specialists, Gardner said.

"A second one could possibly open not long after the first, depending on demand," Gardner said.

This will be third Northeast Georgia Health System hospital. The system opened its first hospital in Gainesville in the 1940s, Gardner said.

The system maintains two Gainesville hospitals with a total of 557 beds and 13 primary care network offices, including two in Gwinnett.