Piedmont bets on freestanding ER to replace community's lost hospital

Piedmont Mountainside Hospital opened a freestanding emergency room in Ellijay, Ga., after the rural community lost its full-service hospital two years ago, according to NPR affiliate WABE.

In 2016, then-North Georgia Medical Center in Ellijay agreed to cease inpatient services and lease its ER and medical offices to Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare. Piedmont Mountainside, 20 miles from Ellijay in Jasper, Ga., was initially swamped with patients after the closure.

Piedmont Mountainside CEO Denise Ray, BSN, RN, told WABE that Piedmont decided to spend $2.2 million building a new ER within the old hospital in Ellijay to take pressure off the Mountainside location and maintain its 30 to 35 percent market share in Gilmer County.

The freestanding ER sees about 33 patients a day, a Piedmont Mountainside spokesperson told WABE. While patients have to be transferred if they require full inpatient services, overall the project has been well-received by residents. The ER isn't losing money, and administrators are considering future expansions.

Paige Green, president of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, told WABE she thinks communities may have to get past the belief that every town needs its own full-service hospital.

"The reality is that if you're paying attention to what's happening in the healthcare space, we have to accept that those days are probably behind us," she told WABE.

More articles on healthcare finance:
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Indiana hospital to close, lay off 437 employees
Alabama hospital in danger of closing as physicians leave town

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