Emory makes its case for HMC affiliation

Emory Healthcare has pledged to make Henry Medical Center (HMC) its sole partner in the Southern Crescent, if selected to join forces with the local hospital.

John Fox, Emory's president and chief executive officer (CEO), outlined his vision for a potential affiliation with HMC, during a meeting of the Henry Council for Quality Growth, Thursday, at Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge. Emory, and Piedmont Healthcare, both of Atlanta, are vying to become partners with HMC.

Fox said he believes Emory — with its three-part mission of research, patient care, and education — can make HMC "the pre-eminent health-care designation on the Southside.

"We want to make Henry Medical Center the centerpiece of Georgia's largest health-care system for the Southern Crescent," Fox continued. "We have no distractions. We have no other hospitals that can compete with resources on the Southside. Our goal is to make Henry Medical Center a true medical Mecca that will benefit, tremendously, all the patients and families in the entire community, in Henry County and beyond."

Fox added that, while Piedmont Healthcare operates facilities in Newnan and Fayette County, HMC would (with Emory) receive "exclusivity" in developing medical programs. "What that means is, that when we establish an open-heart program in the Southern Crescent, it will be here," he said.

Fox pointed to his system's economic viability amid looming health-care reforms, as another selling point for affiliating with HMC. Emory, he said, has $9.3 billion in total assets, compared with Piedmont's $1.4 billion.

"It's going to be a tumultuous decade," said Fox. "Financial strength, and the ability to weather those storms, are critical for any community to consider."

Emory Healthcare, Fox said, maintains a commitment to comprehensive care at its five hospitals in the Atlanta area, totaling 1,420 beds. He pointed, as an example, to the services provided at Emory Children's Center.

"We provide 85 percent of the physicians at Egleston Children's Hospital," he said. "We have a large physician network, with about 1,500 employed physicians, and about 1,000 independent community-based physicians working in our five hospitals."

An affiliation between Emory and HMC, he said, would help to attract opportunities for future growth in Henry. "Emory Healthcare is the sixth-largest employer, already, in Henry County," he said. "We feel like we have a stake, in a big way, in your community, and how it grows and thrives."

HMC's President and CEO Charles F. Scott was on hand for Fox's presentation, as he was for Piedmont's affiliation plea before the Council for Quality Growth last month. Scott said both organizations are "outstanding choices" for linkage. "We are faced with a very difficult, but, I think, enviable position," said Scott. "Now, it's a matter of weighing both organizations, and trying to make that distinction between [them]."

Steve Cash, president and CEO of the Henry Council for Quality Growth, agreed with Scott's assessment, and also spoke of potential benefits in affiliating with Emory. "They do have a lot of resources, and we welcome the opportunity to ... work with them in Henry County," Cash said. "It would be a good fit, because of the resources that they could bring with them."

Cash is hopeful a final decision on the matter — regardless of which health-care system is chosen — will come soon. "What we'd like to see is for the powers that be to go ahead, and make it a quick-agenda item," he said. "We want this done."

Scott added that HMC leadership is in the midst of an "exciting time," in determining who its partner will be. A final decision is expected in the middle of April, he said.