The Catoosa County Commission voted 4-1 during a meeting Tuesday evening to oppose Erlanger Health System's plans to build a radiation oncology center in Ringgold.
The decision followed a plea from Andrew McGill, vice president of strategy and business development at CHI Memorial, who asked the commission to support CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia's plans to offer its own radiation services in the area.
Georgia law requires those wishing to establish new or expanded health care services to submit a certificate of need application to the state. Before a project can get underway, regulators must review the application and determine whether or not it's needed in the area.
While the law intends to safeguard against unnecessary duplication of services that drive up health care costs, it's been an obstacle for the two hospitals. Both submitted applications in February, but there's only enough North Georgia patients for one.
Now, the right to offer radiation services in Ringgold lies in the hands of state officials, who will use letters of opposition and support to inform their decisions.
The commission is not required to back either Erlanger or Memorial's application, but commissioners unanimously agreed in January to oppose another Erlanger project — an ambulatory surgery center — in the same area.
Memorial recently purchased the former, failed Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe, which at one time was managed by Erlanger, and is trying to restore services throughout the region. Meanwhile, Erlanger has treated many North Georgia patients at its Chattanooga facilities.
Ray Johnson, the lone commissioner who voted against Tuesday's decision, said there's likely some lingering animosity in the county toward Erlanger over the Hutcheson fallout, but he thinks the commission should stay out of the dispute.
"Erlanger should have a shot — let them go to Atlanta and support both cases," he said. "They're both good hospitals, and we'd be proud of whichever built there."
If Memorial's plans are unsuccessful, McGill told the commissioners "our overall future plan for CHI Memorial Hospital of Georgia will be severely compromised."
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6673.