Cancer hospital seeking state OK

By JEFF BISHOP jbishop@newnan.com Cancer Treatment Centers of America submitted its Letter of Intent in June as the first step in a lengthy state Certificate of Need (CON) application process that should end with the construction of a new $180 million regional cancer hospital in Newnan. The hospital's application for a CON must be submitted by Monday, according to the Tracking and Appeals Report posted on the Georgia Department of Community Health's Web site.
"Just say a little prayer for us as we go through the CON process," CTCA representative David Kent told the Newnan Rotary Club Friday. Kent serves as the assistant vice president for new business development for CTCA. He said the hospital should take about 14 months to build, once all the paperwork hurdles are cleared. "And we expect CTCA to attract other businesses to the area, and hopefully we will thrive and succeed in Newnan," he said. "But we still need to make it through the CON process, which can take several months," he said. Since the rules have recently changed, "we're not sure about the timeline," Kent said. "But hopefully it will be sooner rather than later." He said the CTCA has already invested a lot of time and money in Georgia to pave the way for the new hospital. "We worked with the Georgia General Assembly for a two-year period," he said. "We looked at trying to fit ourselves under the existing rules and regulations at the time." But CTCA soon realized that approach just wasn't going to work, he said. "So we had to come in and make our case," he said, which ultimately resulted in the CON laws being modified to allow a hospital like the one CTCA is trying to build. One of CTCA's arguments was that it would be treating mostly out-of-state patients. He said it shouldn't be too difficult to meet the 65 percent out-of-state patient requirement. "We feel confident that that won't be an issue, and we expect to prove that over time," he said. The hospital will have 50 beds, and most of those will be filled with patients from other states in the Southeast, he said. "Which is not to say that we're not interested in seeing Georgia folks," he said. But the high number of out-of-state patients was "a key component in the rationale for accepting us" into Georgia, he said. "That's part of the rules under which we have to come in here -- we agreed to that. In fact, it was our idea," he said. "And at our existing hospitals, actually more than 65 percent come from out of state... the patients will come from all over the Southeast." CTCA currently operates regional cancer hospitals in Tulsa, Okla.; Goodyear, Ariz.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Zion, Ill. He said one of the key reasons CTCA chose Newnan was its easy access to I-85 and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. "We've treated about 100,000 patients from the Southeast during the past 12 months, and the biggest issue for them was that our hospitals are just not close enough to their houses," he said. He said probably the biggest factor in CTCA's decision to come here was seeing "the county and city and private business all working together to help convince us that they not only wanted us, but they welcomed us," he said. He singled out Newnan City Councilman Clayton Hicks, local Realtor Jim Mottola, and local developer Stan Thomas for their efforts to bring them into town. He said an important part of the site selection process involves taking CTCA patients to proposed sites to poll them on their opinions. "To a man, once they came to Newnan and saw the site, they said, 'We don't need to see anything else. This is where we want to be treated.'" Access to "big-city amenities" combined with a "small-town feel" was the hook, he said. "And we are really excited to be here," said Kent. "We absolutely cannot wait to partner with this community to bring our style of cancer care to the Southeastern United States."


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