Certificate of Need for behavioral hospital challenged

by Clay Neely - clay@newnan.com


Photo by Clay Neely

Dennis McEntire, Vice President of US HealthVest Stacie York, Tony Sinclair and Candace Boothby at the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce ‘s Economic Prosperity Council meeting Friday.

Stacie York, vice president U.S. Healthvest, spoke to Coweta’s Economic Prosperity Council Friday on behalf of the Newnan Behavioral Hospital and its ongoing effort to get its state Certificate of Need approved to open in the old Coweta General Hospital facilities.

“We have submitted our Certificate of Need (application) and are now in the long process,” said York. “We had our opposition hearing Tuesday, and we knew we would have seven opposers, but Tanner (Health System) came out with the gloves off. They were the most aggressive. What they’ve done is attack our assessment of the need for the services. They’re saying that there is not a need and the current providers can meet that need.”

York emphasized the importance of making the availability of services as local as possible.

“There is a lot of training that is necessary. If you don’t have enough beds, one of the first things that seems to go is the communication and the referring of clinicians seems to wane. ‘No one is calling me back, no one is calling period.’ I’ve been assessing for two decades the need for care and have met more than 60 thousand people, working all over Texas and six other states with military programs. It doesn’t take long for me to assess the need,” said York.

“Dr. Nice (Newnan based psychologist Dr. Patricia Jones-Nice) wrote us a letter saying that when her office experiences a psychiatric crisis, the rest of their work day is spent trying to help that one person. Piedmont has given us feedback about wait times, but Tanner has also disputed that. We expected the opposition, but Tanner was the most aggressive. Their lawyers attacked every single paragraph of our CON,” said York.

“If you’re so worried about us coming in as competitors, I’m flattered. However, we need to respond to it,” said York. “This community has submitted 70 letters of support from all walks of the community, all disputing Tanner’s dispute.”

York gave some background on U.S. HealthVest. “We have experience with startups because we like developing programs. It’s hard to go from an empty building to a hospital full of patients, programs and staff. That ramp-up time takes a lot of work,” she said. “The staff is working long hours, and it’s a big job. For five years, I covered all the military programs for the facilities. We had 5,000 service members go through the program and get treated from 139 military installations. That’s a level of confidence the Department of Defense had in our care, and they are not easy to please.”

Dennis McEntire of the Newnan Coweta Chamber of Commerce and general manager of Newnan Utilities had talked to project supporters from the community at the previous Economic Prosperity Council meeting in October.

“In terms of what the community might do, we can address the opposition on the CON, but deadline for the letters for support is early Monday. The only thing I could think of at this point is a letter from the community that made issue with those who are in opposition,” said York. “These companies aren’t even in this area but are saying that there isn’t a need. However, your community mobilized, in part thanks to Mr. McEntire’s speech, and sent 70 letters of support. We can add other names and attach it to an ongoing list of organizations who endorse it since time is of the essence.”

“Monday the 9th through the 17th of December is when the oppositional response is. If we get the letter in by Monday with more names on it, we can attach it, noting there are additional endorsees of Newnan and Coweta,” said York.

Nathan Nipper, vice president and COO of Piedmont Newnan Hospital, spoke in regards to the regionality of the process. “Can you speak to a larger regional need? The discrepancy of a regional versus a district argument?”

York responded, “When we picked five counties, the five we picked were Meriwether, Fayette, Troup, Heard and Coweta — which there are zero beds in these counties. What the state does is split the community into the planning area and look at it. I don’t like that format because some communities are so rural, you could never get a hospital due to the size of the community. When they make the decision, they’re only looking at one area. However, we draw from across the state for our military program. They come from out of state and overseas.”

“Because we do speciality programs, we’re used to migration. People will drive past other facilities to yours due to the specific programs it can provide,” said York. “We’re not worried about occupancy, we’re just worried about the CON. The need is here.”

In her letter of support, Nice wrote that, “As a psychiatrist, I can’t refer someone to a facility because I feel that the specific facility is the best choice at the time. I have to simply worry about who has a bed. There is no clinical recommendation to it.”

“Everyone in a crisis doesn’t need to go to the ER, and that’s where we can relieve some pressure,” said York. “They may have a medical issue, but we’ll have a 24-hour assessment period. We’re having an intensive outpatient program. When you have such programs, then the ER can call us and send them to us the very next day. It’s nice for safety and liability. When someone calls in the middle of the night, we need them to be safe. People appreciate that and that’s good community service. We’ll admit anyone who needs to be admitted.”

York anticipates the opening of the Newnan hospital in late 2015.

“On Dec. 27, we’ll find out if it’s yay or nay,” said York. “If it’s nay, we will go into appeal process.”

“We commend you for what you are doing for this community,” said Tony Sinclair of Coweta-Fayette EMC. “The letters attest to the need and the intent of this community to support the project. We have a moral obligation to those who served our country to give them the help they deserve. That’s the least we can do. That’s important to me. We must support our wounded warriors. We need to do what’s right for this region and will do everything in our power to help.”

“The health care we have enjoyed in our county has been a fabulous success,” said Sinclair. “The CTCA (Cancer Treatment Centers of America), Piedmont, and the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital. They’re all pearls on a string of pearls and we want to continue this process. That’s the need for a marketing plan and for additional care centers in the future. We need a catalyst and we have that going here and don't need to let that stop,” said Sinclair.

“It’s crucial that we align ourselves and figure out how to get there. We have competing industries here, but we work together,” said Sinclair. “We’re looking for that synergy that we can build upon to expand and make the community everything it can possibly be.”

The Economic Prosperity Council of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber works to facilitate cooperation on issues of economic development among the Chamber, Coweta County Development Authority and local elected leaders.

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