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Two finalists chosen in HMC affiliation search

Special Photo
Henry Medical Center is in the midst of a search for a larger health-care organization, to serve as an affiliated partner. A pair of finalists in the search, Piedmont Healthcare and Emory Healthcare, were announced last week.

Special Photo Henry Medical Center is in the midst of a search for a larger health-care organization, to serve as an affiliated partner. A pair of finalists in the search, Piedmont Healthcare and Emory Healthcare, were announced last week.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

In the quest to develop a partnership with a health-care system in the Atlanta area, executives at Henry Medical Center (HMC) have narrowed their search.

Emory Healthcare and Piedmont Healthcare are the finalists in the search for a partner, according to HMC's President and Chief Executive Officer Charles F. Scott.

Scott said the need for a partnership developed on the heels of financial challenges for the health-care industry. He said he is hopeful an affiliation will help strengthen the hospital's financial standing. "It's more difficult for a single, stand-alone hospital to be successful in the future," said Scott. "We believe there are opportunities to improve our ... situation, quality of care, customer service, clinical program development, and access to capital."

HMC, in the spring of this year, was engaged in exclusive talks with Piedmont about a possible affiliation, according to Scott. "What we were thinking at the time was, a loose affiliation that would not involve a change of control," he said. "However, after much discussion, the boards and administration felt that this model of affiliation would provide insufficient benefits to meet our long-term goals and, therefore, decided to explore other types of affiliation that would involve a stronger integration.

"In April, the [HMC Board of Directors] decided that it needed to explore a more substantial affiliation that would likely involve a change of control," Scott continued. "The exact affiliation model has yet to be determined."

He added that as the nature of such a partnership changed, the project was opened up, in June, to include more entities. "In July, we began the process of considering other organizations in addition to Piedmont," he explained. "We formed an Affiliation Steering Committee to oversee the process."

The committee, said Scott, consists of representatives from the hospital board, the county's Hospital Authority Board and Henry Health System."

HMC, in September, sent a Request for Qualifications to 11 health-care systems, asking if those organizations wished to be considered as a partner.

"We received responses from seven of those organizations," said Scott.

In addition to Emory and Piedmont, other interested parties included: the DeKalb Medical Center, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, Lifepoint Hospitals, Health Management Associates, and Community Health Systems, Scott said.

"Members of the committee reviewed the responses, and ranked them according to 36 criteria, including quality of care, customer service and financial strength. It was based on that ranking, that we arrived at the two finalists."

Nina Day, vice president of corporate communications for Piedmont Healthcare, said her organization initially pursued an affiliation with HMC, because of its reputation for a positive impact on community hospitals. "We have a track record, going into local communities and making a difference with enhanced health care," she said.

More than HMC or Piedmont, local patients are the ones who would benefit most from a partnership between the two groups, added Day. "It's really more about what's in it for Henry," she said. "We already serve thousands of people who live in, or near, Henry County, through our existing hospitals, clinics and physician offices. So there's a natural synergy there, for a proposed partnership. We know we'd be a good fit. We feel like we were already chosen once, and for good reason."

Emory Healthcare's Chief Market Service Officer Patrick Hammond, is equally confident regarding his organization's ability to serve as an effective partner with HMC. "As we look to the future of health-care delivery in Atlanta, and as the only academic medical center in Atlanta, we think we are well-positioned to assist Henry Medical Center in becoming the premier destination hospital, on the south side of Atlanta," said Hammond.

The next stage of the evaluation process for Piedmont and Emory, calls for representatives from both groups to make their cases to HMC leaders, explained Scott. "We have invited representatives of both finalists, to come to our hospital," he said. "They will make presentations to our steering committee, and our medical staff in the first half of December. In January, we plan for members of the steering committee to visit affiliated hospitals of both Piedmont and Emory."