Local hospital 'as close as we've ever been' to building facility in Columbia County

RICHMOND COUNTY, GA (WFXG) - Augusta University Medical Center wants to build a facility in Columbia County. There's only one thing that's stopping them.

"We have already purchased land, not only for the hospital, but for some additional outlying distributed ambulatory sites and so the only thing that is holding us back is this final ruling by the court of appeals, which will allow us to break ground on the land that is already owned and partner with the county to build the hospital that they've been waiting on for four years now," said Augusta University Medical Center CEO Lee Ann Liska.

Columbia County, one of the fastest growing counties in the state, doesn't have a hospital. AU Medical Center's CEO is hoping that could soon change.

"We know that the rapid growth in Augusta has been a blessing, and also, a bit of a hardship for those people who live farther out in Columbia County in terms of getting rapid and urgent and emergent access to care. So we really think that this award to Augusta University Medical Center and coming back to the original CON is very important," Liska said.  "Columbia County is growing so fast with cyber, with Fort Gordon, with all of what's happening with the university - it's very exciting. And we really feel they deserve to have a medical center right in their backyard so they don't have to travel all the way downtown anymore - and receive the same level of care right in their community," Liska continued.

She hopes it will come without a fight - this time. In November of 2014, AU Medical Center was awarded a Certificate of Need - or CON - to build a 100-bed hospital. The land has already been purchased - to build a Level II trauma center worth $150 million.

Doctor's Hospital, however, has maintained that the Department of Community Health didn't follow the CON law when going through its selection process. The hospital said it's holding the department accountable for the "political and arbitrary process" by taking the matter to court. All the appeals have been rejected, including this week when the Fulton County Superior Court dismissed yet another petition.

"From the ruling that we got this week, Doctors Hospital would have 30 days to file their final appeal against the original granting of the CON to Augusta University Medical Center, then the Court of Appeals would have 60 days from that appeal to decide whether or not to hear the case at all. It is our hope that since it's been heard and continually granted to Augusta University Medical Center - the original filing upheld - it's our hope that the Court of Appeals will not hear the case and all of the litigation and waiting on the CON will be over."

A representative from Doctor's Hospital didn't want to speak on camera Friday, but she did send the following statement via email:

"We are reviewing the court's decision and are considering our options for appeal.

Plans for AU Medical's facility include an 18-bed emergency department, 6 operating rooms and 24 - intensive care rooms.

Copyright 2018 WFXG. All rights reserved.