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Cancer hospital company abandons bid to expand in Georgia
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ATLANTA (AP) — A cancer hospital company dropped a longshot bid Tuesday to win permission from lawmakers to expand its patient base in the state.

Illinois-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America suggested in a statement that it might try again in the next legislative session. The company had sought to persuade lawmakers to let it go back on two pledges that sealed a deal with them in 2008 that cleared the way for a center in Newnan.

"It is unfortunate that other hospitals would use their immense political influence to fight Georgia cancer patients and their right to choose where they receive treatment," CTCA said in the statement, adding it believes patients have a "fundamental right to as many health care options as possible, especially when fighting an insidious disease such as cancer."

Georgia hospitals vehemently opposed CTCA's expansion plans, casting that as an attempt to circumvent Georgia's "certificate of need" system that, among other things, regulates construction of new hospitals.

CTCA won permission to open a hospital in 2008 without having to prove Georgia needed its services. It was designated a "destination" cancer hospital, obliged to draw patients from across the nation, and no more than 35 percent from Georgia. It also pledged in 2008 that it would have a 50-bed cap.

It was those two agreements that convinced the General Assembly to let it build the Newnan facility, which opened in 2012. And it was those two pledges it sought to delete in legislation filed this session by Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, in House Bill 482. Willard recently told The Associated Press that the two pledges give an unfair advantage to other hospitals.

The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals and the Georgia Hospital Association both strongly opposed Willard's bill. The hospital associations said CTCA was seeking concessions that would undermine the ability of existing hospitals to care for Georgia patients. Hospital officials said four out of 10 hospitals in the state in 2012 finished with negative operating margins and five have closed since 2013.

CTCA's statement said it remains committed to the principle of being allowed to offer its services to more Georgians and intends "to work very hard between now and next year's legislative session to educate people about who we are and why patient choice remains critical to all Georgians."

CTCA has hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Tulsa and Phoenix, in addition to the one in Newnan.

David Kent, CEO of CTCA's Newnan hospital, told AP it was "wrong to say 'no' to a cancer patient that they can't choose where to get treatment."