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Flint River Hospital

ATLANTA – The Georgia Supreme Court Monday overturned a lower-court ruling requiring a hospital in rural Montezuma, Ga., to get the state’s permission to expand its capacity to serve psychiatric/substance abuse patients.

The case goes back to 2010, when Premier Health Care Investments LLC obtained a certificate of need (CON) from the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to establish a 12-bed psychiatric/substance abuse program at its Flint River Hospital, which is licensed for 49 beds overall.

In 2016, UHS of Anchor, a competing facility affiliated with the Southern Crescent Behavioral Health System, filed a lawsuit after Premier Health Care expanded the psychiatric/substance abuse portion of its hospital to as many as 30 beds.

The plaintiffs claimed the DCH should require Premier Health Care to get a new CON because it was offering psychiatric/substance abuse services beyond the original 12-bed limit.

After a Fulton County Superior Court judge sided with the defendants, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of UHS and declared Premier Health Care must obtain a new CON to operate an expanded psychiatric/substance abuse facility.

But the state Supreme Court reversed that decision on Monday, ruling a new CON is not necessary because Premier Health Care is still operating within its total capacity of 49 beds, even though it has expanded the psychiatric/substance abuse portion of its operation beyond 12 beds.

Georgia law “governs which services constitute a new institutional health service that requires a CON,” and “the reallocation of beds is not one of them,” Justice Sarah H. Warren wrote for the court in a 55-page opinion.

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