Who will get the first free-standing ER in Columbia County?

Monday, Feb. 17, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The first emergency room for Columbia County could be coming.

University Hospital is requesting to build a free-standing ER at its Evans campus on Belair Road.

We told you last month that Doctors Hospital also requested to build its own ER there right across the street from university's campus.

University Hospital wants to build the ER onto their existing campus on North Belair Road, and directly across the street, Doctors Hospital wants to build theirs at the old Fatz Cafe.

We asked the Doctors Hospital CEO if that could be a problem. He said we'll have to wait and see.

A new ER unit could benefit everyone in the area, but Lincolnton resident Tony Creighton thanks God he was close to a hospital after his mom got into a car accident this morning.

“Yeah,” Creighton said. “I think about what if all the time.”

With being 40 minutes away from the nearest hospital, Creighton says he’s hopeful for one closer.

"As I'm getting older, you know, I want to be closer to a hospital,” Creighton said. “You live out that way anything could happen."

Doctors Hospital CEO Doug Welch says the need for a hospital in Columbia County is greater than ever.

"Hospitals in town have definitely been busier this year as the population around us has grown,” Welch said. “The demand for healthcare services grows as our population has aged."

Doctors and university applied for a free-standing ER in 2012 but were denied.

Welch expects the population to grow 6 percent in the next 5 years with a bump in seniors growing more than 20 percent. That, along with a change in certificate of need law in 2019 for freestanding ERs, makes the timing perfect.

"It's just like the emergency room behind us,” Welch said. “It's staffed by highly trained physicians and nurses and techs to care for people on an emergency basis."

A free-standing ER is not a hospital, But 90 percent of patients at ERs go home the day of their issue. It will have equipment like X-rays, CAT scans, and lab tests, but it won't have inpatient beds or operating rooms.

"Our issue all along has been there shouldn't just be one facility in Columbia County,” Welch said. “We believe that people should have access and choice. Competition amongst hospitals is good."

Doctors Hospital expects to hear back from the state about the free-standing ER in April. Meanwhile, there's still an ongoing lawsuit between AUMC and Doctors for the first hospital in the county.

The certificate of need was awarded to AU, but Doctors has continued to fight for the state to reconsider.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.