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Chamber calls meeting for open-heart supporters

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is urging those willing to speak out for an open-heart program in Gwinnett to attend a delegation meeting Monday morning.

The meeting will be held at

10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Jim Maran, Chamber president and CEO, said the meeting's purpose is to "draw attention to the absurdity" of the argument against the program, and to "draw visibility to the overall process" of the Certificate of Need, granted to GMC by the Department of Community Health in June 2008.

The argument, according to Emory Healthcare officials, is that Gwinnett residents already have sufficient access to area hospitals that provide open-heart services.

Emory, along with Piedmont Hospital, filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court opposing the creation of GMC's program. On Wednesday, Piedmont defended its position but pulled out of the suit.

"From the beginning, Piedmont has opposed this new program because of the impact on quality patient care - no other reason," Piedmont spokeswoman Diana Lewis said. "We want what's best for people in Gwinnett and we still believe that means accessing the high-quality open-heart program at Piedmont or one of the other existing programs in metro Atlanta."

Gwinnett Medical Center CEO and President Phil Wolfe said he believes Piedmont did the right thing and, along with Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), urged Emory to do the same.

"It is my sincere hope that Emory will realize the lasting benefits of a cardiac program at the Gwinnett Medical Center and will follow suit by dropping their appeal," Unterman said.

Maran said officials from Emory, Piedmont and GMC have been invited to attend the meeting.