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UNG to acquire Chestatee Regional property after sale to NGHS

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) has reached a conditional agreement with the owner of Chestatee Regional Hospital (CRH) – DL Investment Holdings, LLC – to purchase the hospital property and some equipment. The agreement is contingent upon the results of a due diligence period.

Following NGHS' acquisition and reorganization of the operation, the University of North Georgia (UNG) would have the opportunity to purchase the Dahlonega, Georgia, property to help meet the university's growing educational needs, according to UNG President Bonita Jacobs.

Nursing lab
While UNG would not occupy the Chestatee Regional property for the next couple of years, Jacobs said the facility could potentially house nursing, physical therapy, and counseling education programs, as well as two existing, outreach clinics from the counseling and physical therapy departments that are designed to serve specialized health needs of the community.

"UNG has been exploring opportunities to add academic space for the Dahlonega Campus, and this acquisition will have a transformative impact across multiple academic programs," Jacobs said. "The healthcare sector is a broad-reaching, high-demand career area, and the facility could serve as a catalyst for interdisciplinary opportunities and collaborations to support workforce development needs, such as advanced technologies, informatics, and analytics."

State legislators have earmarked dollars in the state's 2019 fiscal year budget for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to purchase the current CRH property from NGHS for use by UNG in the future. Acquisition of the property would require final approval by the Board of Regents later this year. If approved, the Board of Regents initially would lease the property to NGHS, which plans to conduct an assessment of the community’s healthcare needs, including evaluating the possibility of a new facility in Lumpkin County, just south of the intersection of Georgia Highways 400 and 60.

While UNG would not occupy the space for the next couple of years, Jacobs said the facility could potentially house nursing, physical therapy, and counseling education programs, as well as two existing, outreach clinics from the counseling and physical therapy departments that are designed to serve specialized health needs of the community.

"We are very grateful to Gov. Nathan Deal, Sen. Steve Gooch and the Board of Regents for their leadership in facilitating this purchase that will ensure healthcare for this rural community long-term, while also improving healthcare education opportunities," Jacobs said.

Relocating some of UNG's academic programs also could help alleviate parking and congestion on the Dahlonega Campus by shifting approximately 200 student, faculty and staff vehicles off campus on a daily basis, along with clients for the existing physical therapy and counseling clinics.

NGHS and CHR announced the deal on Friday, March 30.

"Chestatee Regional Hospital has been a vital resource for Lumpkin County and an integral part of healthcare in the region for more than 40 years," said Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS.  "We look forward to working with the community to better understand what care it needs and collaborating to create a plan to meet those needs in the future."

State Sen. Steve Gooch, who represents Lumpkin County in the Georgia General Assembly and also serves as executive director of Lumpkin County's Development Authority, said the deal would both stabilize the future of healthcare for Northeast Georgia and allow UNG expanded academic space. 

Under the terms of the agreement, CRH is required to notify federal regulators of plans to close the hospital later this year – which would help assure existing liabilities are not tied to future owners or operators. A specific date will be set for the hospital closing during due diligence.

"Our immediate goal is to assess what is needed to re-establish high-quality healthcare services in Lumpkin County after the hospital closes," Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS, said.  "Given what information we've received about existing resources, we estimate it may take as many as 12 months to complete that assessment."

During the interim, Lumpkin County officials will work with NGHS and other area healthcare providers to help ensure residents have access to emergency care. NGHS already provides healthcare services in Lumpkin County through an Urgent Care Center on Longbranch Road. The center cared for more than 8,500 people this past year and is projected to treat more than 16,000 people in 2018.

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