The Georgia Department of Community Health has again rejected Floyd Medical Center’s bid to provide open heart surgical procedures in Rome.
A representative of the commissioner said she found numerous inaccuracies in the decision to deny FMC’s first appeal, but she affirmed it anyway. That likely sets the stage for yet another appeal.
“We haven’t had a chance to go through the decision in detail,” FMC President Kurt Stuenkel said Wednesday. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the end of it. We feel strongly about the merits of our application and now we are assessing next steps and appeal right.”
Marsha Hopkins, the designee who affirmed the rejection on behalf of DCH Commissioner Frank Berry, said the hospital failed to show the need for the service.
“FMC did not satisfy its burden to demonstrate there exists an atypical barrier to open heart services within its proposed service area based on cost, financial access and quality for the population it asserts experiences this barrier,” she wrote.
In its latest application, FMC had argued that the cost of open heart services at Redmond Regional Medical Center is higher and the amount of indigent, charity and uncompensated care that Redmond provides to African Americans is disproportionate.
FMC also argued that there are high overall mortality rates from major cardiovascular disease in the area. The low use rates for open heart surgery — and high mortality rates from heart disease — show quality barriers for African Americans and other ethnic groups in the service area, it said.
The hospital offered summaries of patients who arrived at its ER and were dead upon arrival, presumably from a cardiac event. Those patients were uninsured African Americans and were noted to have other medical conditions. But Hopkins said the individual cases didn’t show a trend.
“Without more, these patient examples do not lend persuasive support to FMC’s arguments,” the decision reads.
The 18-page notice of rejection also states that the analysis of the current population projected to benefit from FMC’s program was not evident in the record.
“The arguments set forth by FMC do not go far enough to demonstrate there is a population that is experiencing a barrier to OHS services based on quality,” Hopkins concluded.
FMC has been battling for a certificate of need to perform open heart surgery since its first denial two years ago by the Department of Community Health — the state agency that administers the CON program.
A legal battle ensued and the question went back to state health officials on April 14, citing a Superior Court judge’s ruling that the state erred in rejecting the hospital’s original appeal.
In its decision issued late Tuesday, the DCH reaffirmed its original decision.
Redmond Regional Medical Center has been the sole provider of open heart services in Rome since 1986.
“For over 30 years, we have worked to maintain an exceptional open-heart surgery program for our residents,” said Redmond CEO John Quinlivan. “We appreciate the thoughtful review by the Department of Community Health and believe this is the right decision for our community. We remain committed to offering a high-quality, accessible open-heart surgery program to all of Floyd County’s residents.”