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Gwinnett County man charged with murder in death of 2-year-old

A Duluth man was arrested Sunday night and charged in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter at a Quality Inn Hotel near Gwinnett Place Mall.

Malik Kennedy, 24, has been charged with felony murder and first degree cruelty to children. Kennedy had been watching the girl while her mother was at work. The mother came back to the hotel, which is located at 3500 Venture Parkway, and discovered the girl was not breathing and could not be woken up. The mother then called 9-1-1 at 5:42 p.m., and paramedics from the county’s fire department were called to the scene.

“The fire department attempted to revive the child but were unsuccessful,” Gwinnett Police Public Information Officer Hideshi Valle said. “The child had several bruises on the cheeks with finger and fingernail impressions, a swollen eye, swollen forehead and bruises on the body.”

Gwinnett County jail records show Kennedy was arrested and booked into the jail shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday. An autopsy was performed on Monday, and it was determined that the girl had a closed head injury on the back of her head.

Kennedy is being held at the jail without bond.

Anyone who has information about the case is asked to call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers, which lets tipsters remain anonymous, at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. Tipsters can receive a cash reward from Crime Stoppers if their information leads to an arrest and indictment. Tipsters are asked to reference case No. 21-033855.

After being knocked off schedule in 2020 by COVID, Gwinnett Relay For Life and Dacula Memorial Day Parade are returning this month

Gwinnett Relay For Life and the Dacula Memorial Day Parade have been May traditions in Gwinnett County for decades. But even traditions had to concede to COVID-19 last year.

Last year’s parade was canceled and relay was pushed back later in the year before having to adopt a virtual format as the global pandemic asserted itself and derailed plans everywhere.

But, now they are back and in person — even if accommodations have to be made for the ongoing pandemic.

“Fundraising through Relay For Life is more important than ever, and we can’t allow progress to be put on hold because of the pandemic,” said Daphne Hill, the director of development for the American Cancer Society, which oversees the worldwide Relay for Life program. “Cancer won’t stop, and neither can we.”

Both Gwinnett Relay For Life and the Dacula Memorial Day Parade will return to their traditional May roosts this year as life in the county begins to return to something that at least somewhat resembles normalcy. Their return accompanies announcements from the county’s cities that their events will go forward this year with health and safety precautions in place.

Of the county’s two major May traditions, Gwinnett County Relay For Life is coming up first with an abbreviated “drive-in” relay set to take place from 7 until 9 p.m. Friday at the Gwinnett County Fair Grounds, which is located at 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville. Gates will open at 6 p.m.

The “drive-in” format — where attendees can participate form their cars if they prefer to social distance — is a departure from the traditional relay format, but organizers said all of the events traditions, such as the celebration for survivors and caregivers, as well as the luminaria ceremony and music, will be a part of the event.

There will also be some car-based activities, such as “Beep Beep Bingo” and a “What’s in Your Car” scavenger hunt.

“As we come together to celebrate Relay For Life this year, we’re joining forces to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and caregivers,” Hill said. “Last year many of our events were held virtually or canceled, putting millions of research and patient program dollars at risk. We’re grateful to be able to meet in person this year, even if that means hosting a drive-in event.”

Meanwhile, this year’s Dacula Memorial Day Parade — which is believed to be the only parade held in the area on Memorial Day — will be held at 10 a.m. on May 31.

The theme for this year will be “So That We May Be Free,” and the grand marshals will be a set of twins, James and Jennings Watkins, who served in the Army during World War II.

The parade will be capped at 150 entries and any groups interested in participating in this year’s event have until either that cap is reached, or until May 14 — whichever comes first — to sign up. Groups interested in participating in the parade can find sign up forms at the event’s website, www.daculamemorialday.com.

“We are seeking veterans, veterans organizations, active and reserve service men and women, both current and vintage military vehicles, high school marching bands, middle school bands, scouts, churches, school organizations, community groups, custom designed floats and local businesses to participate in this year’s parade,” parade founder Marvin Atherton said in an announcement on the event’s Facebook page.

While the parade — which was canceled last year because of the pandemic — is back, there are some precautions attendees and participants are being asked to take to stay safe.

“All parade participants and attendees are urged to practice social distancing and are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in accordance with current CDC guidelines,” Atherton said.

The biggest change to this year’s parade is not coming because of COVID-19, however. Construction on the new Harbins Road bridge at State Route 8 is forcing a change in the parade route as well as a new announcing stand location for this year’s parade.

The parade will, as is tradition, begin and end at Hebron Baptist Church. It will leave the church and head south on Dacula Road, but its new route will have it turning right onto Wilson Street and then turning right onto Second Avenue. It will then cross Broad Street and head to Hebron Church road before returning to the church.

The announcing station will also now be at the Shell gas station located at the intersection of Dacula and Fence roads.

Piedmont buying 4 HCA hospitals, including Gwinnett's Eastside Medical Center

Piedmont Healthcare is adding four HCA hospitals to its network, including Eastside Medical Center in Snellville, in a deal valued at close to $1 billion.

The purchases from HCA, announced Monday, would make Atlanta-based Piedmont the leading system in Georgia in number of hospitals, at 15. The Emory and Wellstar systems are next, at 11.

The deal had been rumored for several days.

If regulators approve the acquisitions, as expected, the nonprofit Piedmont system will acquire Eastside Medical Center; Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside, both in Macon; and Cartersville Medical Center in Cartersville.

The targeted closing date is July 31. HCA, a chain based in Tennessee, valued the acquisition price at $950 million.

“We’re very excited to bring our care model to these communities,’’ Kevin Brown, the Piedmont president and CEO, told GHN in an interview after the announcement.

Piedmont already serves communities that have more than 70 percent of the state’s population. The system’s goal, Brown said, is to provide seamless, high-quality care in the hundreds of medical locations, including urgent care facilities, that Piedmont operates.

HCA is expected to sell its Rome hospital, Redmond Regional Medical Center, to Florida-based AdventHealth, which already has two hospitals nearby in northwest Georgia.

But HCA is moving to strengthen its presence in east and southeast Georgia. On Saturday, it announced that it had finalized its $73 million purchase of Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.

HCA said in a press release Monday that “the commitment of HCA Healthcare colleagues at these hospitals [being sold] has helped the facilities achieve national recognition for quality patient care, even though these facilities were not able to fully benefit from a broader HCA Healthcare presence in their areas.

“Given Piedmont Healthcare’s history of serving the region’s health care needs, the affiliation will better position the hospitals to continue providing excellent care to their patients,’’ the statement added. “At the same time, the transaction provides strategic value to HCA Healthcare by increasing financial flexibility for investments in ongoing and future initiatives in core markets.’’

Brown of Piedmont noted that of the four HCA hospitals that his system is buying, three scored an “A’’ grade in the recently announced Leapfrog Group ratings.

“We’re not trying to grow for growth’s sake,’’ Brown added. “We probably passed on 15 other opportunities.’’

HCA has done “a phenomenal job’’ on operating the four hospitals, he said.

He said Piedmont will eventually issue bonds to cover purchase costs.

Among Piedmont’s notable purchases have been Athens Regional Medical Center, in 2016, and Columbus Regional, in 2018.

Josh Berlin, CEO of rule of three, a health care consulting firm, said the transaction makes strategic sense for both HCA and Piedmont.

HCA previously “was pretty spread out’’ in Georgia, and didn’t have much presence in metro Atlanta, Berlin said. The deal will allow the system to concentrate on its eastern and southeastern markets in Georgia, he added.

Besides Rome, HCA operates hospitals in Augusta, Savannah, Waycross, Dublin and now Vidalia.

“For Piedmont, it gives them a great opportunity to expand their network in metro Atlanta and outside metro Atlanta,’’ Berlin said.

A bigger health care system brings economies of scale, including on purchasing supplies and technology, Berlin added. Larger companies have the clout to cut better deals with vendors and insurers.

Among the properties Piedmont is purchasing is Eastside Medical Center, a 310-bed, two-campus system in populous Gwinnett County. The north campus has 229 beds supporting acute care services, including a 46-bed emergency department.

The south campus currently offers a 61-bed inpatient psychiatric center, a 20-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility, and an 11-bed emergency department.

Coliseum Health System includes two acute care hospitals: Coliseum Medical Centers with 310 beds, including a 40-bed inpatient behavioral health facility (Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health), and Coliseum Northside with 103 beds. In addition, Coliseum operates an ambulatory surgery center in Macon with three operating rooms.

Cartersville Medical Center is a 119-bed acute care hospital that includes a 43-bed emergency department, with a Level III trauma center.

In addition, Piedmont would become a partner in a joint venture for 12 urgent and family care clinics.

Community rallying to help Dacula restaurant owner hospitalized with COVID-19

As the owner of a barbecue restaurant in Dacula, Steve Robb is used to being the one doing the serving, but friends say he is now the person who needs to be served.

Robb, who owns Fat Cap BBQ with his wife, LeeAnne, has been hospitalized with COVID-19. He was moved out of ICU this past weekend, but he remains hospitalized and has to continue taking medications and receiving high-flow oxygen, his wife said in an update on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“His right lung has extensive damage and the doctors say it’s going to take a while to recover,” LeeAnne Robb said. “No promises that it will ever be back to ‘normal,’ but that’s ok because he’s still with us.

“We don’t know how much longer he’ll be in the hospital, but we want him to stay until he’s well enough to be home without anymore scary incidences.”

The community has been rallying around the Fat Cap owners, raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to help them cover medical costs as well as lost business revenues.

As of Tuesday, the campaign had raised $13,000 out of its $15,000 goal.

“Let’s show them that #onefamilyoneDacula is not just a hashtag,” said Becky Turner, the fundraiser’s organizer, on the GoFundMe page.

When the campaign started in mid-April, Steve Robb had been recovering from COVID at home, although Turner said he was on oxygen at all times. The restaurant had to close at that time because of his illness.

The situation took a turn for the worse later in the month and he developed pneumonia and one of his lungs collapsed, prompting him to be admitted to ICU, GoFundMe officials said.

A tube was inserted to keep his lung inflated, although his wife said it was removed when he was moved out of ICU.

Fat Cap has been sharing information about the GoFundMe campaign, which can be found at bit.ly/2RmponZ.

“There aren’t enough words to sufficiently thank you all for your prayers and support,” LeeAnne Rob wrote on Facebook. “It means so much to our family. Please keep the prayers coming. They’re working! We can’t wait to see everyone again.”