Mon, May 20, 2024

Financing for new hospital in place

Funding for the construction of the new Columbia County hospital in Grovetown has passed its last step.

Attorney Jim Driver told members of the Columbia County Hospital Authority they successfully closed on the $375 million bond and construction is underway. Crews have been clearing the land in anticipation of the start of construction.

“The main role is going to be for you to sit on their board, and also to get the quarterly financials. None of that is triggered until they have a certificate of occupancy,” he explained.

The series 2003 A bonds total just over $279 million. There is also almost $57.5 million in series B bonds, which are the ones with the county’s backing. The closing was in early November.

Georgia law requires the county to back 20% of the cost of the construction. The county would have to provide the funds only if other entities involved in the construction default.

Driver said that commitment has not impacted the county’s financial profile.

“Supporting or backing up to 20% of the hospital did not affect our bond rating. It’s across-the-board AAA again. All three agencies.”

Authority Chairman, Trey Allen told ABD the project is moving forward as anticipated.

“The construction of anything as complicated and complex and large as a hospital, it’s just going to take a lot of time. And so, for the time being, we are in the stages where, as a body, there’s not much we could do,” he said. “Every structure has to have a certificate of occupancy.”

After that certificate is issued, a member of the Authority will be selected to serve on the hospital’s board of directors. In the meantime, the Authority is required to schedule quarterly meetings to review the financial statements.

The fight to build a hospital in Columbia County began in 2014. At that time, Augusta University Medical Center (then called Georgia Regents Medical Center), University Hospital (now Piedmont), and Doctors Hospital all filed Certificates of Need (CON) with the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH), seeking approval to build a hospital.

 GRMC’s CON was approved, but the University Hospital and Doctors Hospital both appealed the decision. University Hospital ultimately dropped its appeal, but Doctors Hospital continued until 2021. However, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case, effectively upholding DCH’s initial ruling.

“I think that it’s an asset for the community of Columbia County. That as a growing community, one of the fastest growing communities in the southeast, we need it and it’ll serve our people,” said Allen. “We’re very excited about its design and it’s going to be state of the art and our partnership with Augusta University, MCG and WellStar is going to strengthen our ties throughout the area.”

The hospital is being built at Exit 190 off Interstate 20. When finished, it will be visible from the highway.

It will be a 100-bed, 260,000-square-foot hospital, and will include an emergency department, trauma center, intensive care rooms, and six operating rooms.

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