State approves GMC open heart program

LAWRENCEVILLE - It's go time for Gwinnett Medical Center.

The Gwinnett Daily Post learned early Thursday that the state has approved the hospital's Certificate of Need to begin an open heart surgery program at its Lawrenceville campus.

The approval effectively erases Gwinnett's status as the largest county in the nation without such a program.

The Georgia Department of Community Health made the decision based criteria adverse impact, community need and service alternatives.

GMC launched its pursuit of an open heart program in October 2007 and filed a Certificate of Need application to the GDCH in January.

Philip Wolfe, president and chief executive officer of GMC, said Wednesday at a hospital function that GMC would immediately begin steps toward implementing the program if the state approved its bid.

Officials could not be reached Thursday morning, but are expected to release a statement sometime in the afternoon.

In April, the hospital announced it will team 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.