Request to build ER unit in Columbia County denied - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Request to build ER unit in Columbia County denied

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There are three urgent health care clinics in Columbia County, and they're the reason why the Department of Community Health says Doctor's Hospital and University Hospital don't need another emergency care unit in the area.

"I think Columbia County, as large as it is, it definitely needs another emergency room," said Teresa Burgess, a patient at University Hospital and a resident of Columbia County.

Burgess has the same idea Doctor's and University hospital officials had when each of them proposed to build an ER in Columbia County, which one of the largest counties in Georgia.

"Right now, our current emergency room is at capacity," said Doug Welch, CEO of Doctor's Hospital. "We have too many patients coming in for the number of treatment rooms that we have. So we need to expand."

Looking to add on to their 23 treatment rooms, Doctor's Hospital planned to add 12 more rooms including a trauma unit off campus in Columbia County. University Hospital also requested to build a unit with 18 hospital beds.

Both $9.6 million dollar proposals were denied by the Department of Community Health, saying there were enough urgent care clinics in the county to handle the overflow of patients. But hospital officials say these facilities don't have the same resources as an ER.

"Urgent cares aren't prepared for emergencies 24/7/365," Welch said. "They don't take ambulances. They don't take people with heart attack, and stroke, and other serious disease. They really just do a walk-in clinic business.

And Columbia County Burgess said these urgent care units aren't so "urgent." Not only was her regular urgent care closed in the middle of the day, she said the waiting periods were lengthy.

"Anytime you have a waiting time, it's a burden I think. You know, but you know, I wish we didn't have to wait as long," Burgess said.

All three urgent care clinics are closed at 7 p.m. on the weekday. If the ER at Doctor's Hospital is full, the next closest emergency room is downtown in Richmond County. Both hospitals are prepared to pay for ER themselves, so Doctor's Hospital says they'll keep pushing for the new facility.

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