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Staff file photo / The Chattooga County Courthouse is seen on Monday, July 27, 2020 in Summerville, Ga.

Atrium Health Floyd has announced plans to establish a first freestanding emergency department in Chattooga County.

Through a partnership with the Chattooga County commissioner's office and discussion with state elected officials, Atrium Health Floyd discovered there was a need for around-the-clock emergency care in rural communities in the area, such as Summerville, Trion and Lyerly.

On Monday, Atrium Health Floyd submitted a letter to the Georgia Department of Community Health declaring its intent to apply for a certificate of need — a legal document required in order to construct a new health care facility — for a freestanding emergency department to provide that needed care.

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Atrium Health Floyd will file for a certificate of need within the next month. The Georgia Department of Community Health will review the application.

Kurt Stuenkel, president and CEO of Atrium Health Floyd, said he has been in communication with the governor's office about the project and the need for more medical care in rural areas across the state.

"Atrium Health Floyd will fulfill an unmet need for the Chattooga County area. Currently, patients can travel an hour or more in an emergency situation to get an emergency department," Stuenkel said in a statement. "We will build and operate a brand new, high-quality emergency department in this area. The presence and services in this new facility will dramatically improve outcomes and save lives by making expert emergency care available 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

According to a news release, the new freestanding emergency department will be next to Walmart on Highway 27 in Trion, Georgia, providing "convenient and easy access" to residents traveling from any point in the county, according to the release. Although it hasn't been purchased yet, an option to purchase the property has been signed.

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The department itself will provide emergency care services 24/7 and include six treatment rooms along with onsite laboratory and imaging services, including X-ray and a computed tomography or CT scanner. In total, the release said the new facility is projected to cost $18.5 million and create 40 new jobs.

"Floyd has been providing primary care and urgent care services in Chattooga County for nearly three decades — since 1994, now with five physicians and a nurse practitioner in the community and with extended hours. Floyd also provides hospice and bereavement care, non-emergency transport and mobile mammography to residents in the area. In addition, Floyd has entered into long-term relationships with both Chattooga County schools and Trion schools, where we provide athletic trainers and other programs and support for school-aged children and their families," Stuenkel said. "Our commitment to Chattooga County is well-demonstrated, and we intend to go to another level by providing this new freestanding emergency department."

Each year, he said, there are about 24,000 visits to the Floyd Urgent Care center in Chattooga County.

The Chattooga County facility would be Atrium Health's first freestanding emergency department in Georgia. The organization operates seven freestanding emergency departments in North Carolina.

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News of Atrium Health's intent to build the new facility comes a week after CHI Memorial announced it would be filing a certificate of need to build a replacement hospital along Battlefield Parkway in Ringgold, Georgia.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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