Hall County has another major player in the health care market.
Northside Hospital, which has hospitals in Atlanta, Cherokee County and Forsyth County and offices in Dawson County, has acquired Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic in Gainesville.
While a new business structure will be developed, very little else will change, said Bill Beyer, CEO of NGDC, in a press release.
“We will not be leaving the Gainesville area — we will remain here and provide health care services as we’ve always done,” he said. “Our physicians will be here. Our remarkable staff will be here. Our patients and their families will notice a few changes, all for the better.”
Beyer said in the press release that the Northside Hospital system’s “legacy and growth trajectory are an ideal fit for NGDC.”
“The work of connecting the two organizations is underway, and the operational plans are being determined,” the release states. “Both entities hope to have the new relationship finalized later this year.”
Beyer added, “The future of health care requires an extraordinary commitment to patient access and satisfaction, clinical innovation, fiscal strength and outstanding health care providers. We intend to fulfill that commitment and lead our community forward with unwavering patient service.”
Lee Echols, vice president of marketing for Northside Hospital, released a statement saying, “Northside has been impressed with NGDC’s deep roots in the Gainesville and Northeast Georgia areas. We look forward to building on its legacy as our new partnership gets underway.”
The move into Gainesville actually isn’t Northside’s first. The hospital opened Northside/Gainesville Imaging at 425 Broad St. in 2015.
NGDC’s acquisition didn’t sit well with RK Whitehead, Board of Trustees chairman of Gainesville-based Northeast Georgia Health System, which also operates a hospital in Braselton and Northeast Georgia Physicians Group offices throughout the area.
“We are surprised and very disappointed that Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic chose to join an Atlanta-based health care system,” Whitehead said. “This shifts focus outside our local community and may make it more difficult for their patients to coordinate their care close to home.”
Rob Fowler, executive vice president and partner of Turner Wood & Smith Insurance, said, as a consultant to NGHS and local doctors on behalf of clients, he was “shocked and dismayed” by the move.
“We don’t want to direct care outside of our community,” Fowler said. “Gainesville is considered the health care hub for Northeast Georgia, and our employees do not want to drive to Atlanta for health care services unless that service is not offered locally.”
In a phone interview, Beyer said Northside’s acquisition doesn’t change the clinic’s relationship with Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
“We have no plans to do anything different,” he said. “We will continue to admit to the hospital. We’re here in this community. This is where we live, where our children go to school and where we send our patients to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.”
He added, “We know a lot of orthopedic procedures are done at Northside. That’s a patient’s choice. That is not usually a physician directing them. We let the patients know what’s in the community and let them make an informed decision.”
Doctors “will be credentialed at Northside, but the chance they will be admitting patients there is probably very little. It’s not down the street.”
Sean Couch, NGHS spokesman, said, “It’s important for patients to know they always have a choice when it comes to where they go for care. We encourage people who want to continue to receive local, convenient, high-quality care to let their doctor know that Northeast Georgia Medical Center is their preferred hospital.”
Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS, said, “Our mission to improve the health of our community in all we do remains unchanged, and Northeast Georgia Health System will continue to provide high-quality care for our mutual patients.”
Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic, founded in 1953, is based at 1240 Jesse Jewell Parkway SE and has offices in the Braselton area. The practice has 32 doctors and 11 mid-level providers.
Northside is a lot younger, starting in 1970 with a hospital in Sandy Springs, then later expanding to Canton and Cumming.
The hospital system has more than 2,800 physicians and 15,000 employees who serve 3 million patients annually.