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Court Weighs Commissioner's Authority in Free-standing Emergency Department


The Georgia Court of Appeals began its August term by evaluating an authority debate regarding the future of a proposed free-standing emergency department in central Georgia.

In a series of related cases, oral arguments included a dispute between AU Medical Center Inc., the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) and Doctors Hospital of Augusta. This case involves a certificate of need (CON) to establish a free-standing emergency room that DCH granted to Doctors Hospital of Augusta, which resulted in a petition for judicial review by AU Medical Center. The initial petition was denied, prompting an intermediate appeal.

Representing AU Medical Center, MMM attorney Robert Threlkeld argued that the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) Commissioner, in granting the CON to Doctors Hospital of Augusta, violated three components of the commissioner review standard and that the commissioner may not reject or modify conclusions of law and use that to form the basis for rejection findings of fact. Further, Threlkeld noted that, “if the commissioner rejects or modifies the conclusion of law, it must then state with particularity the reason for modification or rejection and must make a finding that it’s substituted conclusion of law is more reasonable.”

Threlkeld argued any substituted conclusion of law suggesting hospital emergency services are not the same services as hospital emergency services offered in a free-standing location “is wrong as a matter of law.” 

Read the full article here.