Surgery decision nearing
Hospital expects ruling on open heart program

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett Medical Center will likely receive a decision by the end of the week from the state regarding the fate of the hospital's proposed open heart surgery program at its Lawrenceville campus, officials say.

The Georgia Department of Community Health could return a decision to GMC by either Thursday or Friday, according to hospital spokeswoman Andrea Wehrmann. The decision will state where the facility's Certificate of Need application did or did not meet certain criteria and why it was approved or denied, she said. Criteria includes adverse impact, community need and service alternatives.

"GMC would like to thank the community for their overwhelming support and patience throughout this process," Wehrmann said. "We are eager to find out the final response from the (GDCH) and most importantly continue our journey in better serving the needs of the community."

GMC launched its pursuit of an open heart program in October 2007 and filed a Certificate of Need application to the GDCH in January. Hospital officials say Gwinnett is the largest county in the nation that does not have an open heart surgery program.

Wehrmann could not provide information on the hospital's next steps once a decision by the state is announced. Calls made to the GDCH on Tuesday were not immediately returned.

In April, the hospital announced its intentions to team up with Atlanta-based Saint Joseph's Health System to create Gwinnett Cardiovascular Services, an arrangement designed to bring advanced cardiac services - including open heart surgery - to the county.

Gwinnett Cardiovascular Services will be jointly owned and managed by GMC and Saint Joseph's Health System. Under the agreement, Saint Joseph's - one of Atlanta's oldest hospitals - will provide consultative services, including training and clinical advisory support to GMC's cardiovascular center, which will include open heart surgery services if the GDCH approves GMC's application.