Chestatee Regional Hospital in Dahlonega closed at midnight July 27, and the Northeast Georgia Health System plans to acquire the facility soon.
NGHS hopes to finalize an agreement to purchase the property and some equipment in the coming week, according to Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS.
NGHS already has some facilities in Lumpkin County, including an urgent care center, the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and The Rehabilitation Institute, which provides outpatient physical rehabilitation services.
To provide health care for people in Lumpkin, NGHS has expanded some of its services.
Urgent Care Dahlonega at 73 Maxwell Lane has had extended hours since July 1 and is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. The Northeast Georgia Physicians Group also has a new physician assistant and nurse practitioner.
“Roughly 37 percent of Lumpkin County EMS patients were taken to Chestatee Regional Hospital in 2017, and we believe a number of those patients could have been appropriately treated in a different setting, like an urgent care center or primary care office,” said Chris Dockery, chairman of the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners, in a June 27 statement.
Smith said in an email Friday, July 27 that NGHS was working with Lumpkin County to provide paramedics.
“Our goal is to help stabilize health care in Lumpkin County, so we’ve had ongoing conversations with elected officials about how (NGHS) can support Lumpkin County EMS following Chestatee Regional Hospital’s closure,” Smith said. “They have asked for additional paramedics, and the plan is to finalize an agreement for NGHS to provide those resources next week.”
It might take up to a year to decide the solution for re-establishing health care in Lumpkin, Smith said. Options include opening some services in the current hospital building or potentially building a new facility on 57 acres NGHS owns near the intersection of Highway 60 and Ga. 400.
NGHS held three job fairs in Dahlonega at the University of North Georgia this summer. It also has hired more than 25 of Chestatee Regional Hospital’s employees, and most are scheduled to start with NGHS in August, Smith said.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents and NGHS have reached an agreement for the Board of Regents to purchase the hospital property from NGHS. The Board of Regents would then lease the property to NGHS for up to three years. The University of North Georgia would likely then relocate some of its programs to the property.
“Given the many challenges facing Georgia’s rural communities, this is a rare win-win for ensuring access to health care and educational opportunities for generations to come,” Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS, said in a June 27 statement.