Courts news

Redmond Regional Medical Center’s bid to provide perinatal services to expectant mothers has been affirmed by Floyd Superior Court Judge Kay Ann Wetherington.

However, Floyd Medical Center President Kurt Stuenkel said the hospital will continue to appeal the ruling. The next venue will be the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“We believe in the merits of our argument and we will continue to work through the court system to appeal the decision,” Stuenkel said.

The ruling is the latest setback for FMC, which up to now has provided the lone birthing services to mothers in Rome and Floyd County. FMC operates a 10-bed labor and delivery unit, 36-bed mother/baby unit, a 19-bed Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and 4-bed Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“We are pleased with Judge Wetherington’s ruling, upholding the state’s final decision in favor of our certificate of need to add obstetric services. We appreciate the support and approval to expand our services and provide families in our community a choice in obstetrical care,” said Redmond CEO John Quinlivan.

In 2008, the Georgia General Assembly passed an exception to the Certificate of Need law which applied to just three counties — Dougherty, Muscogee and Floyd. This exception allowed the state to issue approval for new services in a county where there are not “at least three different health care facilities in a contiguous county providing basic perinatal services.”

Cartersville Medical Center and AdventHealth Gordon are the only two other facilities that offer birthing services in the contiguous counties of Chattooga, Walker, Gordon, Bartow and Polk.

Redmond’s proposal calls for the development of a $21.8 million unit with nine labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, one caesarean section room and a seven bassinet holding nursery with one isolation bassinet.

Redmond was approved for the project in March of 2018 which prompted the initial FMC appeal. The Certificate of Need was upheld in February and FMC appealed to the commissioner of the Department of Community Health who upheld the CON on April 26. Floyd Medical Center then requested a judicial review of that approval.

One of the keys to the decision is that Redmond’s application calls for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum beds where a mother and baby can remain in the same room after the birth. Since FMC offers a different model — which transfers the mother to a different room following the delivery — it was not considered as an “existing alternative” to the Redmond project.

The judge also rejected FMC’s assertion they had significant unused capacity for birthing services along with arguments that offering the services at Redmond would create an adverse impact on the FMC program as well as the Floyd Family Residency program.

In the order the judge wrote that Floyd Medical Center was not able to demonstrate that the Redmond service would impact its physician training program to a point that would jeopardize the program’s accreditation and funding.

Finally, the judge determined that the state’s analysis of the financial impact of Redmond offering Level 1 perinatal services would have a “minimal and not unreasonable” impact on the financial health of FMC.

The Department of Community Health’s analysis concluded FMC would continue to have “a positive contribution margin, about $2.7 million, from the operation of its obstetric program.”

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