Hos­pi­tal seeks part­ner to sur­vive

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter is seek­ing an “eq­uity re­la­tion­ship” with another health­care sys­tem in the met­ro­pol­i­tan At­lanta area, hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials an­nounced Mon­day.

James F. Wead­ick, the hos­pi­tal’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said he had mailed “re­quests for pro­pos­als and qual­i­fi­ca­tions to larger sys­tems in Metro At­lanta and hoped to fin­ish a deal with one of them by early 2015.

“Like many small hos­pi­tals in in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive mar­kets, New­ton Med­i­cal sim­ply lacks the scope and scale to be suc­cess­ful against much larger sys­tems that are now en­ter­ing our ser­vice area with well-es­tab­lished brands, broader of­fer­ings and the abil­ity to op­er­ate with greater eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency than we can,” Wead­ick said.

“The Board of Direc­tors of New­ton Health Sys­tem Inc., with the con­cur­rence

of the New­ton County Hos­pi­tal Au­thor­ity Board, has de­cided to take the proac­tive step of seek­ing an eq­uity part­ner that shares our vi­sion and val­ues, and our com­mit­ment to Cov­ing­ton and New­ton County.”

Wead­ick said he ex­pects to re­ceiv­ing let­ters from in­ter­ested sys­tems within a cou­ple of weeks with for­mal re­sponses to New­ton Med­i­cal’s RFPQ due by mid-Oc­to­ber.

He said it would take most of Oc­to­ber to eval­u­ate the pro­pos­als and that he ex­pected to be able to nar­row the field to two fi­nal­ists by late that month. He said the hos­pi­tal was es­tab­lish­ing a team to eval­u­ate the pro- pos­als that would in­clude physi­cians, board mem­bers and ad­min­is­tra­tors. He also said he an­tic­i­pated mak­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to com­mu­nity groups about the hos­pi­tal’s plans as the process un­folds.

“We rec­og­nize that this is go­ing to be a mat­ter of some in­ter­est to the com­mu­nity and we’re com­mit­ted to be­ing as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble,” he said. “Cer­tain as­pects of the process will nec­es­sar­ily be con­fi­den­tial, at least for a time, but we in­tend to share what we can when we can. We strongly be­lieve that the course we’ve cho­sen is in the com­mu­nity’s best in­ter­est, and we in­tend to emerge from this with an en­hanced abil­ity to con­tinue de­liv­er­ing qual­ity health­care.”

Wead­ick said any fi­nal trans­ac­tion would have to be ap­proved by the Board of Direc­tors of the New­ton County Hos­pi­tal Au­thor­ity, which owns the sys­tem’s phys­i­cal as­sets, in­clud­ing the hos­pi­tal. After that, state law re­quires that any trans­ac­tion be re­viewed and ap­proved by the state at­tor­ney gen­eral, a process that could take up to 90 days and would en­tail at least one pub­lic hear­ing in New­ton County.

New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter opened in 1954 with 36 beds and has grown over the past 60 years into a 97-bed fa­cil­ity of­fer­ing a broad range of med­i­cal ser­vices, in­clud­ing women’s ser­vices, gen­eral surgery, an in­ten­sive care unit and ra­di­ol­ogy ser­vices, among many oth­ers. Its Emer­gency Depart­ment saw an av­er­age of 3,850 pa­tients per month in 2013. It is lo­cated on U.S. 278 just a few blocks from down­town Cov­ing­ton.

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