St. Mary's Health Care System of Athens, Ga., plans to acquire Saint Joseph's East Georgia in Greensboro, Ga., and to build a replacement facility for the 25-bed critical access hospital. The organizations have signed a letter of intent and expect to complete the transfer of ownership in a matter of months.
Don McKenna, president and chief executive of St. Mary's, said St. Mary's and Saint Joseph's East are well-aligned with each other: Both are Catholic facilities that are part of the Catholic Health East system; both are sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy; and both are located in rural northeast Georgia.
St. Mary's will acquire Saint Joseph's East from CHE's Saint Joseph's Health System in Atlanta. That regional system had purchased the critical access hospital from Pacer Health Corp. of Miami Lakes, Fla., in early 2008, when the facility was on the brink of closure. Atlanta's Saint Joseph's now is in talks to form a joint operating company with Emory Healthcare, possibly as early as summer. Emory's proposal originally included Saint Joseph's East, but Atlanta's Saint Joseph's told the critical access hospital's leaders they could pursue bids from other health care systems and Saint Joseph's East chose to do so.
Mike Huff, president and chief executive of Saint Joseph's East, said he does not anticipate any major immediate change in staffing or services with the change in regional system ownership, although he expects an expansion of services with the development of the replacement facility. Saint Joseph's East's bed count will not change with the construction. The groundbreaking for that facility could take place by the end of the year.
Huff said that with pressures arising from health care reform, and with reimbursements declining for care provided, it is critical to small hospitals like the Greensboro facility to be able to affiliate with high-quality partners like St. Mary's. He said Atlanta's Saint Joseph's had supported Saint Joseph's East well, but when the opportunity arose for the critical access hospital to align with St. Mary's, the leaders pursued that course since St. Mary's is geographically closer than the Atlanta parent and well-known to Greensboro community members.
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