Catoosa County commissioners

Catoosa County commissioners recently voted to oppose Erlanger Health System's application for a certificate of need to build a surgery center near CHI Memorial in Fort Oglethorpe. (Catoosa News photo/Adam Cook)

Catoosa County's Board of Commissioners is not in favor of Erlanger Health System's plan to open up a surgery center down the road from the newly rebranded CHI Memorial Hospital.

During the Jan. 18 commission meeting, County Attorney Skip Patty explained that Erlanger has filed an application for a certificate of need for an Ambulatory Surgery Center in town that it wants to construct less than a mile from the hospital's facility.

The application is not for a full-scale hospital like CHI Memorial, or even Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, but rather an outpatient surgery center.

In order to be able to open a surgery center, a hospital must get a certificate of need from the Department of Community Health.

After an executive session, commissioners came back into their open meeting and unanimously voted to contest Erlanger's application to build its facility.

While the board didn't go into a lot of detail before its vote, all agreed that the issue needs a little more time to be sorted out.

"We made a decision that would be most beneficial to Catoosa County," Commissioner Jim Cutler said Thursday, Feb. 1. "It's nothing against Erlanger, but we want to keep everything open and see what happens."

CHI Memorial, formerly known as Cornerstone Medical Center and Hutcheson Medical Center in recent years, was purchased by Memorial late last year. The deal included the hospital on Gross Crescent Circle in Fort Oglethorpe and the former Hutcheson on the Parkway facility on Battlefield Parkway.

Cutler says Memorial has also purchased additional land on Battlefield Parkway next to the now CHI Memorial-Parkway.

Erlanger's application to lay claim to the certificate of need didn't sit right with the board considering that CHI Memorial is working to renovate its surgery center following the purchase.

"I don't speak for the entire Board of Commissioners, but my personal opinion is that it's more of a blocking maneuver on the part of Erlanger, rather than investing in Catoosa County," Cutler said. "Memorial comes in and buys Cornerstone, investing money and getting a foothold in Catoosa and Walker County. ... They bought Hutcheson on the Parkway and bought land down Battlefield Parkway too, so it's a question of who's making the bigger commitment to Catoosa and Walker County."

Erlanger officials didn't return calls Thursday, Feb. 1, seeking comment on the matter.

In addition to Catoosa County's opposition, both CHI Memorial and Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Ga., have also filed objections against Erlanger's effort.

Either or all of the three groups can pull back their objections before the Georgia Department of Community Health holds a hearing regarding the issue, but it seems almost a certainty that all will continue to oppose Erlanger's plan.

"The way I look at it, it's a maneuver by Erlanger to get the letter from Memorial and Hamilton," Cutler said. "Memorial is making the commitment to the county."

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.