In a unanimous decision, the court decided against Northside Hospital, which opposed the surgical center because it covered the same area of patients as one owned by Northside.
The decision allows WellStar to finish out the $73 million health park, which covers 162,000-square-foot in east Cobb with an outpatient surgery center. The new health park will open in September, said Tyler Pearson, a spokesman for WellStar.
Northside Hospital appealed the decision all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court because it said the law that permits hospitals to apply for surgery centers was unconstitutionally vague.
In Georgia, any hospital proposing to build a new health care facility has to get a certificate of need from the Department of Community Health, said Jane Hansen, high court spokeswoman. WellStar needed one of these certificates to build the surgical center, but Northside opposed it.
“WellStar is pleased that the Supreme Court of Georgia was able to see that there was nothing unconstitutional or vague about the CON rule that the Department of Community Health relied on in granting our CON,” Candice Saunders, president and chief operating officer for WellStar Health System, said in a statement. “It has taken four years to get final approval, but we can now move ahead with what we do best — delivering world-class healthcare to the people of Northwest Georgia.”
The certificate is there so the areas hospitals serve do not overlap. The area the WellStar east Cobb center would serve with its new outpatient surgery center would overlap with Northside’s hospital’s area, Hansen said.
WellStar said the certificate would allow the center to primarily serve east Cobb, and its secondary service area would include the rest of Cobb County, plus Cherokee, Bartow and Paulding counties.
Representatives of Northside Hospital said in court the law providing for the certificate of need was too vague, but the Georgia Supreme Court made a final ruling against Northside Monday.
Russ Davis, a spokesman for Northside Hospital, declined to comment.
Justice Harold Melton wrote in the opinion for the case that “contrary to Northside’s contentions, the rule is not unconstitutionally vague on its face.”
WellStar built its location without waiting for a decision on the surgical portion of the health park, and it will open in September. The center, which is on Roswell Road, is called the WellStar East Cobb Health Park.
The 162,000-square-foot building will offer everything except an overnight stay. Patients can visit the health park to visit a doctor by appointment or for urgent care, to get tests and imaging done and to fill prescriptions.
“The WellStar East Cobb Health Park will be a one-stop shop for a comprehensive array of outpatient medical services,” said Joe Brywczynski, senior vice president of health park development in a statement. “The ambulatory surgery center fills a need in the east Cobb community and will create an unsurpassed patient experience.”
The facility will have seven exam rooms and two larger observation rooms, and it is expected to have 20 physicians working there when it opens, Pearson said.
Lee O’Neal, the president of the East Cobb Civic Association, said the court’s decision didn’t change the concerns residents in the area already had about the center.
“I think the main concern for many of the people who live around the facility is certainly the size and the intensity of use. Its presence is noticeable,” O’Neal said. “Those concerns still remain.”
Monday’s decision reverses the previous decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals made in favor of Northside.