Hospital asks for heart surgery nod
Gwinnett Medical Center submits certificate of need to Department of Community Health

LAWRENCEVILLE - After nearly three months of preparation and support gathering, Gwinnett Medical Center officials have submitted a certificate of need in hopes the state will allow the hospital to add an open heart surgery program to its list of services.

The document, which would allow the hospital to begin preparing for the additional services, was filed with the state's Department of Community Health on Monday and begins the formal review process.

Mark Mullin, hospital director of planning, said the state has 90 to 120 days to come back with a response.

"We've made a very good case with this and we're hopeful," Mullin said of the process.

The hospital launched a campaign in October highlighting the need for access to open heart services in Gwinnett County.

As it stands, patients in the county who need heart surgery or emergency heart care must be transported to an Atlanta hospital.

"National guidelines recommend interrupting a heart attack within 90 minutes," medical center Director of Cardiology Dr. Manford Sandler told the Post previously. Currently, he said it takes an average of 209 minutes to transport a patient to an Atlanta-area hospital offering the appropriate heart care.

Gwinnett's 750,000 plus residents account for nearly 10 percent of the state's population, according to the hospital's Web site, with Gwinnett as the second largest in population in Georgia only to Fulton county - a county whose hospitals have open heart surgery.

Starting in October hospital administration began to enlist the community's help in acquiring approval for the state-required CON.

Hospital spokesman Kyle Brogdon said a number of community groups and individuals have signed on to support the hospital's efforts.

As of press time Tuesday, 851 support letters had been submitted through the mail and on the Internet through a Web site, www.openheartgwinnett.org, dedicated to Gwinnett open heart support.

If the CON is approved without opposition, Mullin said architectural plans for construction of an open heart surgery facility could begin later in the year.

"Hopefully we could begin serving folks by mid-year of 2011," Mullin said.

Although the document has been filed, hospital officials are still looking to receive letters of support from the community.

"Throughout the review process the state allows additional information to be submitted during the first 60 to 90 days," Mullin said. This is the time he said when additional letters could be submitted.

"The vast majority (of letters) have been from people who live here," Mullin said. "We've been very happy with the response. There's been a lot of emotion in these letters and we're hopeful."