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Locust Grove shows support for Southern Regional

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The City of Locust Grove has pledged support for efforts by Southern Regional Medical Center (SRMC) to offer open-heart surgery services.

The Locust Grove City Council passed a resolution recognizing and supporting the Clayton County hospital's application for a certificate of need to offer the services. The council adopted the resolution on April 5.

The city passed the resolution because local residents needing heart surgery should have quick access to a hospital in close proximity to them, Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey said Friday.

"Being a heart [patient], I know the importance of it," said Lindsey, who underwent open-heart surgery in December 2008. "The need is here. Any time you can save lives, that's your goal."

Southern Regional invited county officials to a meeting March 29 to announce its intentions to apply for a certificate of need, she said, and to elicit their support.

"They [SRMC officials] said, 'If you would support us, would you put it in writing?'" said Lindsey. "That's what we did."

Ron Dodson, chairman of the board of directors of Southern Regional, said the hospital held the meeting specifically to ask for support from county officials. Representatives from Pike, Clayton and Lamar counties, as well as Henry County, also attended.

"Having open-heart surgery on the Southside of Atlanta is a Southern Crescent matter," said Dodson. "[This was] to make them aware that SRMC has applied for a certificate of need."

According to Dodson, other officials at the meeting were Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, interim SRMC Chief Executive Officer Clint Matthews, and Dr. Raju Vanapaila, chairman of the Southern Regional Medical Center Hospital Authority.

Gaining support from other counties helps boost the hospital's clout when applying for the certificate, added Dodson. "It does add credibility," he said. "It shows there is a need for open-heart surgery south of Interstate 20. During a heart attack, time is of the essence."

Lindsey said, presently, there are no hospitals close by where residents on the Southside can go for open-heart surgery. "Any of us that are below Interstate 285, or I-20, you either go to Atlanta, or to Macon," she said. "There's nothing in between. If they could go to Southern Regional, that would shorten their travel time."

SRMC already has the equipment and the space to perform open-heart surgery, Lindsey said. "Once they're permitted to do heart surgery, they can be up [and operational] in a matter of months. It's not like they have to start from ground zero."

SRMC filed a certificate of need with the Georgia Department of Community Health in February.