Union General Hospital

Coordinates: 34°53′06″N 83°57′43″W / 34.885°N 83.962°W / 34.885; -83.962
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Union General Hospital
Union General Hospital in Blairsville, Ga.
LocationBlairsville, Georgia, U.S.
Affiliated universityPublic
Beds45 licensed beds

Union General Hospital is a 160,000-square-foot (15,000 m2) hospital in the mountains of North Georgia, United States, and it is the public hospital for the city of Blairsville and Union County. Operated by the Union County Hospital Authority, it is located in the northeast section of the city.


Union County Clinic was established in 1959 as an outpatient treatment center. After an expansion in 1961 it was renamed Union General Hospital. In 1972 the hospital faced competition from Blairsville General Hospital.[1] Union General struggled to remain open and took a loan from Union County Bank to meet payroll.[2] When Blairsville General closed in 1976 the Union General Hospital Authority obtained the building and reopened it in 1980 as Union General Hospital.[1]

In 2006 Union General added a $30-million, 80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2) expansion with an additional $4 million in new equipment.[3] The addition included new clinical laboratory, critical care, emergency, and diagnostic imaging departments, plus four operating rooms and 45 in-patient rooms.[4] A Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Unit opened in December 2014.[5] The hospital opened a new orthopedic wing in 2018.[6] In 2023, Union General Hospital completed a 41,000 sq ft (3,800 m2), three-story medical office building for orthopedics, sports medicine, and women’s health.[7]

A new medical office building opened at Union General in 2023.

Union General Hospital also operates the 150-bed, 50,000 sq ft (4,600 m2) Union County Nursing Home, a clinic in nearby Young Harris, and Chatuge Regional hospital and its 112-bed nursing home in neighboring Hiawassee, Georgia.[8] The hospital system opened a $2 million primary care facility in Hayesville, North Carolina in 2020.[9] As of 2023, the hospital had approximately 1,200 employees across all of its facilities.[10]

In 2016, Union General’s CEO, John Michael Gowder, Emergency Room Director David Gowder and family practice doctor James Heaton were arrested on federal charges of illegally prescribing thousands of prescription pain medicines between 2011 and 2015.[11][12] They were found guilty in 2019.[13]


Union General Hospital has thrice been named Georgia Rural Hospital of the Year. In 1994 it was named one of the top 10 rural hospitals in the United States.[14] Union General was named the 2016 Hospital of the Year by HomeTown Health. In 2018, Union General ranked among the top 1 percent of facilities in the United States for hospital safety. It was the only hospital in Georgia ranked in the nation’s top 100.[6] Women's Choice Award named Union General one of "America's 100 Best Hospitals for Patient Experience" four years in a row.[10]

Chief executives[edit]

  1. Leon Davenport (1972-1993)
  2. Rebecca Dyer (c. 2008)
  3. John Michael Gowder (c. 2014-2016)
  4. Lewis Kelley (2016-2019)
  5. Kevin Bierschenk (2019–present)


  1. ^ a b "George D. Gowder Jr". Legacy.com. GainesvilleTimes.com. 2017-01-14.
  2. ^ Dyer, Rebecca T.; Hood, Kathy (2014-10-15). "Loving Dr. George" (PDF). The North Georgia News. Blairsville, Ga. (continued).
  3. ^ "Union Sentinel story on hospital expansion". unionsentinel.com. Retrieved 2006-08-30.
  4. ^ "What if a rural hospital delivered big-city healthcare?" (PDF). what if. Tifton, Ga.: Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals. 2007.
  5. ^ Jarrard, Shawn (2015-01-21). "Gowder honored as one of 130 CEOs to know" (PDF). North Georgia News.
  6. ^ a b Beck, Jason (2018-03-02). "Expansions viewed, accomplishments discussed at Union General board meeting". FYN. FetchYourNews.com.
  7. ^ "Union General Health System's New Medical Office Building". Union General Health System. 2023-02-20.
  8. ^ "Our Facilities". Union General Health System.
  9. ^ "Groundbreaking for new Union General primary care facility". Clay County, North Carolina. 2020-12-15.
  10. ^ a b "Live, Grow Care in Union County". Union County Development Authority.
  11. ^ "Sheriff: CEO of local hospital arrested in prescription fraud ring". News Channel 9. Chattanooga, Tennessee: ABC. 2016-02-04.
  12. ^ Sanborn, Beth Jones (2018-04-10). "Georgia hospital CEO, ED director, family physician accused of running pill mill". Healthcare Finance News. HIMSS Media.
  13. ^ "Georgia doctors found guilty". Clay County Progress. Hayesville, N.C.: Community Newspapers, Inc. 2019-11-07.
  14. ^ Hudgins, Phil (2007-01-01). "Blairsville-Union County". GeorgiaTrend. Norcross, Ga.

External links[edit]

34°53′06″N 83°57′43″W / 34.885°N 83.962°W / 34.885; -83.962