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HMC, Piedmont still negotiating, but not exclusively

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Henry Medical Center (HMC), and Piedmont Healthcare, have put a hold on their exclusive negotiations for a potential affiliation between the two health-care providers.

"What this means is that HMC will take the next three months to formally evaluate other healthcare systems that may be interested in being considered along with Piedmont," said Charles F. Scott, Henry Medical Center president and chief executive officer. "We have felt all along that an affiliation with Piedmont would have a positive impact on the quality and level of care at HMC, but since the exact nature of the affiliation hasn't yet been determined, it is difficult to say exactly what the impact would be.

" ... We intend for the changes to include a waiver by Piedmont of the exclusivity clause that currently prevents HMC from talking to other providers, so that we can proceed with the process without delay," said Scott.

"Although we are confident in the process used to identify and evaluate the best partner for our hospital, we believe it is in the best interest of all involved to re-open our process to allow other interested parties to be re-assessed in a more comprehensive way," he said.

Piedmont Healthcare and Henry Medical have agreed to work toward modifying a previously drafted "Letter of Intent," to provide for a waiver of the exclusivity clause, added Michelle Nunnally, HMC's public relations specialist.

The waiver, she said, will enable HMC to review interest from other organizations. Both organizations remain committed to continuing discussions with each other as well, she said.

Nunnally said that, after a three-month identification and review process, the combined boards of Henry Medical Center (HMC), the Hospital Authority of Henry County, and Henry Health System, selected Piedmont Healthcare as the "partner of choice."

However, her comments, and those of Scott, seemed to be acknowledgment that

public criticism of the process used to select a partner has been heard, and is being addressed. The Henry County Board of Commissioners, members of the HMC staff, and members of the community had voiced concerns over the process Henry Medical used to select Piedmont Healthcare.

Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis praised Henry Medical's decision to open the affiliation talks. "I am pleased with the decision of the boards of Henry Medical Center," said Mathis. "It appears that the concerns of the board of commissioners and medical staff, in regards to a transparent and inclusive process, have been promptly addressed. I am confident that the HMC boards will make the best selection to serve the health-care needs of our citizens."

"Piedmont is still committed to pursuing this relationship," said Nina Day, vice president of marketing and public relations for Piedmont Healthcare. She said the modification should not be viewed as a roadblock to a potential affiliation, but a detour.

"We're just being sensitive to Henry Medical's need to address ... concerns locally. But, we are confident that the end result will be the same -- that Piedmont would be the best choice for partnership with Henry Medical Center. We have a great track record with our other affiliations, and we feel that Piedmont can bring great value to the local community."

Piedmont Healthcare built a hospital in Fayette County in 1997, and owns medical facilities in Newnan and Jasper, Ga.

-- Staff writer Jason A. Smith contributed to this article.