Busy Acworth venture has WellStar eyeing more health parks
by Jon Gillooly
February 05, 2013 12:36 AM | 4711 views | 8 8 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area residents had to drive to the Kennestone Hospital campus for treatment before WellStar opened its Acworth Health Park. The facility, WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings told a Chamber of Commerce crowd, already has had 49,000 visits.<br>Staff/Jon Gillooly
Area residents had to drive to the Kennestone Hospital campus for treatment before WellStar opened its Acworth Health Park. The facility, WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings told a Chamber of Commerce crowd, already has had 49,000 visits.
Staff/Jon Gillooly
CUMBERLAND — WellStar Health System CEO Reynold Jennings said WellStar’s new Acworth Health Park is such a success, he hopes to open similar parks in other areas of the county.

Jennings gave an update on the more than 12,500-employee WellStar Health System during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Monday.

A health park is a collection of medical office buildings that offer outpatient services, such as imaging, laboratory, surgery center, and an urgent care center, combined with physician practice offices and other medical services such as a retail pharmacy, community and education rooms.

Before WellStar opened its $29 million Acworth park near the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Cedarcrest Road, area residents had to drive to the Kennestone Hospital campus for treatment.

Already, the Acworth facility has seen about 49,000 visits from patients. Visits are counted by the number of patient interactions, so that a visit to a physician counts as one visit, while that same patient moving on to the pharmacy counts as another.

The 70,000-square-foot Acworth facility has 10 physician practices.

“I actually talked to some of my old Marietta friends the other day who are running up there because they think it’s more convenient than the urgent care,” he said. “So that’s what it’s all about is getting you the distribution points where you can get in quickly and be taken care of. So this has exceeded all of our expectations, and because of that we’re still moving ahead with the three other developments.”

Jennings said he hopes to open the $73 million East Cobb Health Park at the intersection of Providence and Roswell roads in fall 2014.

He also has plans for a Smyrna-Vinings Health Park near the intersection of Atlanta Road and Cumberland Parkway, as well as a South Cherokee Health Park at the intersection of I-575 and Sixes Road. Pending board approval, they would open near the end of 2015 at a yet-to-be-determined cost.

‘Myths’ about WellStar

Jennings also addressed what he called four local myths about WellStar. 

The first is that WellStar does not offer services to children.

In fact, WellStar employs 43 pediatricians and 50 private pediatricians on its staff, 71,000 children come to WellStar’s emergency rooms, and its pediatric offices see 222,000 visits, he said.

The second myth is that only health systems inside I-285 offer high quality care.

In fact, Kennestone’s open-heart surgery program has a three-star ranking, the highest rank that can be achieved in the U.S. and one that only 13 percent of open heart programs have attained.

For the last three years IMS, the ranking agency that ranks the top 100 integrated health delivery systems in the U.S., has ranked WellStar at No. 5.

The third myth is that Atlanta’s Grady Hospital treats the most emergency patients in Georgia.

The truth is WellStar’s Kennestone Hospital holds that distinction at 120,000 ER visits. While Grady is second, Wellstar’s Cobb Hospital is within 2,000 visits and will pass Grady in the next two to three years, he said.

“When you take all of WellStar, it is the largest provider of surgical services and emergency services in the state of Georgia compared to any other system,” Jennings said.

The fourth myth is that WellStar is “flush with cash,” Jennings said.

“There is a lot of money that flows in and flows out, but because we are a not-for-profit and we try to keep our charges 8 percent below the Atlanta hospitals, over time every excess dollar we have gets plowed back into this community for all the services as well as the health parks,” he said.

Jennings said WellStar’s mission is to be a world class health care system to the 1.4 million people in the five counties WellStar serves.

Lanie Shipp, executive director of the Town Center Area Community Improvement District, applauded the presentation.

“I think his relationship with the business community is very positive, and I’m glad to hear that we’re not separated anymore,” Shipp said. “He’s more of a community man, and health care certainly is such a big issue for all business people that his philosophy and his direction he’s taking WellStar in is just wonderful.”
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Great Neighbor
February 08, 2013
As a resident who lives within walking distance of the new East Cobb Health Park, I am thrilled that these services will be so close to home! Nearby high quality medical services always increase a home's value, so this is good on many many fronts. And, with WellStar having been in my family for more than 40 years, I am so pleased that these medical services will be provided by WellStar. Good things head most certainly!
February 06, 2013
Wellstar has explicitly stated that the East Cobb facility will not be an emergency facility- due to the fact that there are dozens of options for such treatment.

You are long on loud remarks on these boards, and short on facts.

If you actually lived in the area affected by Wellstar's actions, you would pay more attention to the facts that do matter. And you would take your misplaced and misinformed NIMBY comments elsewhere.

Wellstar can show if they intend on being a good neighbor or not- so far they are giving off the wrong indications.
Not a good neighbor-
February 05, 2013
While Wellstar has avoided laws pertaining to zoning on the East Cobb facility, they COULD show that they care about the community they work in.

They COULD definitively state that they will cordon off Providence Road with buffers.

They COULD definitively state that they will NOT have ANY traffic entrance on Providence Road EVER.

They COULD state that they will comply with commissioner input and abide by existing zoning conditions for every other business.

But they haven't...
February 05, 2013
Oh knock it off. The first time you have a medical emergency, you'll be darn glad Wellstar's there to patch you up.

When they built a cell tower in your area, were you one of the ones who called on your cell phone to complain about the intrusion into your visual version of Camelot?
Be Careful
February 05, 2013
Not so fast.....

While he tells the truth that Kennestone does have a childrens emergency department, every time they get a serious child emergency, they transfer them to Children's Health Care of Atlanta.

And certianly the ER is busy. Talk to anyone who's been there lately. Sitting HOURS in the waiting room. And ambulance crews waiting 30 min to an hour for a patient bed.

And ask the fire department or any ambulance company about Kennestone's "no diversion" policy.

No matter how busy they are, they will NOT tell an ambulance to go to another hospital.

They would rather a patient wait, than lose the money they're getting ready to bill that patient.

Any Wellstar employees going to back me up here?
ex-WS EE
February 05, 2013
yuo are so RIGHT!! WS is all about the $$$$$. they are running off all great EEs so they can bring in less experinced ee for less money. recently i recntly went to the healthpark office on 278 in the hiram area and was told if i would pay $150 up front they would not bill my insurance um... wouldnt that be fraud. i was told this when they called to reschedule my appt, when i said i didnt want to change it they got upset and told me i better be on time ( 3:30) because they had to close out & balance for the day.

WS is not what they prsent to the public
Not So Fast!
February 05, 2013
Kennestone transfers children to CHOA because pediatric patients aren't admitted at any of the WellStar facilities. Most Atlanta hospitals refer all pediatric admissions to dedicated pediatric hospitals.

I've never heard of an ambulance wait 30 minutes to an hour for a bed.

The no diversion policy is a good one. Sick patients are still treated very quickly. Studies done in Massachusetts (where the state has a no diversion policy) show that care is better than when hospitals are on diversion. It's not a money issue, it's a patient care issue. When Kennestone is busy, every other hospital in Atlanta is busy as well.

I'm sorry that you've had to wait for hours in the waiting room. Patients are triaged based on acuity, and the more sick a patient is the faster he or she will be treated. Patients presenting with non-life threatening illnesses will not be treated as quickly as someone having a heart attack, stroke, or with abnormal vital signs. The flu season has made wait times much longer.
Fact Checker
February 05, 2013
ALL area hospitals transfer children to CHOA! While health system docs see pediatric patients, if a child needs to be admitted they are transfered to CHOA. This is a practice amongst all area hospitals, not just WellStar.
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