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Eastside has heart on mind
Medical center mulls bid for open heart surgery

SNELLVILLE - Gwinnett Medical Center isn't the only hospital in the county that would like to provide open heart surgery to its patients.

Officials at Emory Eastside Medical Center confirmed Tuesday they'd also like to seek open heart surgery status.

While no official documents have been filed, medical center spokeswoman Sheila Adcock said the hospital has been "looking into" filing a certificate of need, a request filed with the state that could give the hospital approval for such a program.

While Adcock and officials declined to further discuss plans for the Snellville-based hospital,

Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer has sent a letter to the Department of Community Health in Atlanta requesting support for the potential program. Oberholtzer read the letter at Monday night's Snellville City Council meeting.

Oberholtzer said hospital officials met with him Monday requesting his support of their efforts.

"It would be a great addition to the hospital," Oberholtzer said of an open heart surgery program at Emory. "The closest we have is over at Saint Joe's or Athens. It would be a benefit to the community."

The mayor said the city also plans to create a resolution for adoption at the next City Council meeting. He said the document would ask for CON support from the community.

In a letter obtained by the Post, Emory Eastside Interim Chief Executive Officer Greg Caples solicits support in bringing open heart to the hospital.

The letter, dated Jan. 2, states the hospital's partner Emory Healthcare is "embarking on the mission of bringing Open Heart Surgery to Gwinnett County" with the goal of working "together to form a high quality Open Heart Program convenient to all Gwinnett County residents as well as others in neighboring counties."

Caples' letter asks readers to write the letters, sending them to his care. A flier accompanying the letter states messages are needed by Jan. 31.

The news of Emory's ambitions comes a week after Gwinnett Medical Center filed a CON to get its own open heart surgery program.

Gwinnett Medical officially filed the document with the Department of Community Health on Jan. 8 with a 90- to 120-day wait time for word of the state's decision.

While GMC officials said Emory's actions are a sign Emory agrees open heart surgery services are needed in Gwinnett, they believe their hospital is the best place for the program.

"This is the third time we've tried for approval," said GMC spokeswoman Adrienne Hollis of the system's recent filings. "We're not aware that any other facility has applied for this approval in the past."

The Lawrenceville-based hospital launched a campaign in October highlighting GMC's need for access to open heart services in the county.

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

When asked if there is room for two open heart surgery programs in Gwinnett County, Hollis said that is a decision for the state.

Oberholtzer had a different answer.

"I think so," Oberholtzer said. "We have over 700,000 people in the county but what people don't realize is how many surrounding counties we have. There are all the folks that have moved out to Walton County. We need to supply this side of Atlanta with this service."