State health rep defends denial of CON
by Clay Neely
Testimonies in the certificate of need appeal for Newnan Behavioral Hospital wrapped up Friday, with only Bruce Henderson testifying on behalf of the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Henderson had previously denied the initial Certificate of Need for Newnan Behavioral Hospital, citing the hospital to be financially unfeasible.
At the hearing on Friday, Henderson elaborated on why he found the application lacking to his standards – often reciting the phrase “overly aggressive” in regards to US HealthVest’s methodology and adverse impact on other behavioral health providers.
“It didn’t appear that the adverse impact by US HealthVest fully captured Tanner in their 30-bed expansion,” Henderson said.
However, Henderson was not aware of Tanner’s use of adult psychiatric beds to house pediatric patients in 2011. When questioned if he knew that providers are allowed to use adult beds for children, Henderson stated he was aware.
The legal counsel for HealthVest then inquired if use of pediatric beds for adults was also acceptable. Henderson stated that practice would be permissible only in extreme circumstances.
Henderson acknowledged, however, the state has allowed Tanner to use beds allocated to children for adult patients.
Henderson also addressed the issue of adverse impact on Tanner, stating that existing alternatives for behavioral health currently reside in the community.
In regard to the role travel time would play, Henderson stated that it would play a role in how remote a particular location is.
“There are services in Coweta County,” Henderson said. “Maybe not an inpatient hospital but there are services.”
Henderson also stated that the proposed 114 staff members of Newnan Behavioral Hospital is a factor he felt does not meet financial feasibility.
“The proposal by US HealthVest is not consistent with the state’s goals,” Henderson said. “Vest’s projections are very aggressive in terms of population, usage rates and need within the five-county service area.”
Henderson argued that the state’s reasonability projections are based on what they keep on the record and that their criteria has been on the record for a long period of time.
“Our methods would be the more reliable means to gather data rather than a business trying to establish a market,” Henderson said. “We need something a little more concrete.”
The letters of support spanning from medical providers, social workers and politicians from the Coweta Community were addressed to Henderson, who countered that any letter of support is different than a specific letter that would indicate that a certain amount of patients were guaranteed to fill the beds in a proposed hospital.
“We looked at every methodology, and when you compare the projections to what we have on file on our database, it’s aggressive,” Henderson said. “When you double the existing patient base, when you assume the patient base will grow with population growth, that’s aggressive.”
“Their projections are the number one red flag,” Henderson said. “I don’t know how more expressive I could have been. They have an unreasonable projection that was not readjusted and hasn’t changed. The department could not approve the project as proposed.”
The question was then posed from the counsel to Henderson: “Are you not aware that when new services are established, the usage rate goes up?”
“That’s possible – not to the degree of Vest’s proposal of over 100 percent,” Henderson stated.
When asked if he was aware that Tanner’s patient load has more than doubled since 2005, Henderson replied that he did not recall that.
The council then asked Henderson if he contacted US HealthVest after the opposition meeting regarding additional concerns. Henderson stated that he had not.
“It is traditionally my practice not to contact any applicant after 60 days regarding issues,” Henderson said.
While the various methodologies of collecting data consumed the majority of the hearing, counsel for the proposed hospital did inquire to Henderson in regards to his knowledge of the population growth that Coweta has experienced since 2007.
“Yes, but I can’t say that they’re growing fast,” Henderson said. “Compared to other counties, I can’t speak to that.”
Following Henderson’s testimony, the hearing drew to a close. Transcripts of the appeal will be prepared, briefs will be submitted and a decision will be rendered by the end of September by the hearing officer, Ellwood Oakley, III, esq. The CON Appeal Panel is an independent agency comprised of three people appointed by the governor who are part time as needed.