Open-heart surgery program: Chamber encourages community to write letters of appreciation

DULUTH - Sen. Renee Unterman said she believes Gwinnett Medical Center will win the fight to establish an open-heart surgery program.

"I think eventually we're going to get it, and I think we're going to get it within the next year," Unterman said Tuesday at the Gwinnett Chamber's first Legislative Summit.

The community's support for the program is important, she said, urging the business leaders at the meeting to continue to rally behind the hospital's efforts.

The Gwinnett Chamber encouraged community members to write letters of appreciation to Gov. Sonny Perdue and Department of Community Health Commissioner Rhonda Medows for their support of the open-heart program and ask them to reaffirm the original decision.

Gwinnett is the largest county in the United States without an open-heart program, and residents rank second in the state, behind Fulton, in the number of heart attacks.

In 2008, the Department of Community Health approved a Certificate of Need for the open-heart surgery program. Piedmont Hospital, Emory University Hospital and Emory University Midtown (formerly Crawford Long) appealed the approval, and a hearing officer recently ruled in their favor.

The Department of Community Health will review the hearing officer's ruling, and a final decision should be made by July 17.

For more information about the open-heart surgery program, visit www.openheartgwinnett.org. To learn more about how to send a letter supporting the program, visit www.gwinnettchamber.org/openheart.

SideBar: IF you write

· What: Letters of support for Gwinnett Medical Center's open-heart surgery program

· Where: Commissioner Rhonda Medows

Department of Community Health

2 Peachtree St.

Atlanta, GA 30303

· When: Letters should be sent before July 17.

· For more information: Visit www.gwinnettchamber.org/openheart.