Court OKs $150M Georgia hospital after 3-year battle

After more than three years of legal pushback, a Georgia court has ruled Augusta (Ga.) University Medical Center can build a $150 million, 100-bed hospital in Columbia County, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

AUMC obtained a certificate of need to build the facility in November 2014, beating out competing proposals from Doctors Hospital of Augusta and University Health Care System, also based in Augusta. Both appealed the decision in 2014 and lost.

Doctors Hospital has appealed using every avenue since the initial ruling, and the latest appeal challenged the financing mechanism used to grant the license to build the facility.

Since there are so many hospital beds in a neighboring county, the medical center's application to obtain a certificate of need from the Georgia health department used a rare exception that allows a hospital to be built if it is the only one in the county and the county itself pays at least 20 percent of the cost. Doctors Hospital was challenging this funding mechanism, and a judge ruled against Doctors Hospital once again.

"The department's county-financed exception is valid, the department's decision is reasonable and consistent with prior decisions of the department," Superior Court of Fulton County Judge Henry Newkirk wrote in the ruling.

Doctors Hospital has 30 days to appeal the Superior Court decision. However, if all appeals are exhausted in about 90 days, AUMC will break ground on the facility, the medical center's CEO Lee Ann Liska said.

"We are thrilled," Ms. Liska told The Augusta Chronicle.  "We are very excited to bring a hospital to Columbia County."

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