Southern Regional, Emory finalize management agreement

Health care system gains influence over hospital

(Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

(Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

— Southern Regional Medical Center and Emory Healthcare will begin merging their health programs on Oct. 1, when the Atlanta-based healthcare system moves into the Southern Crescent and takes over management of the Riverdale-based hospital, according to officials from both healthcare groups.

The deal has been in the works since news broke in May that both sides were negotiating an agreement. Officially, Southern Regional will maintain some degree of autonomy by keeping its own board of directors, but Emory officials will give the board “guidance” on the hospital’s operations and finances.

Southern Regional spokesman Jeff Dickerson said Emory is not taking ownership of the hospital, however.

“The Southern Regional board is still the governing body at the hospital,” said Dickerson. “The ownership is staying the same, and the board is remaining intact, but Emory will be handling the management of the hospital.”

In many ways, the new management agreement essentially amounts to an Emory takeover of Southern Regional. Even though the hospital’s board will remain, Dickerson said Emory will pick the hospital’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief medical officer and chief technical officer as part of a management agreement.

Additionally, both healthcare entities announced this week they will “blend” their programs, as Emory begins offering its own programs at the hospital. Some of Emory University’s health education programs will be offered at Southern Regional as well. Emory physicians will also be more available to patients in the Southern Crescent through the agreement, according to Southern Regional and Emory officials.

“Formalizing a management agreement is key to Southern Regional working in the Emory Healthcare network of providers,” said Southern Regional CEO Jim Crissey, in a written statement. “Over the next year, we’ll undergo the greatest transformational change in the organization’s 41-year history as we strive to implement many of Emory’s quality programs and operational standards.

“Our community expects the best, and they deserve it. Adding Southern Regional into the Emory network of hospitals delivers on that expectation.”

Southern Regional will now become the only southside hospital in the Emory Clinically Integrated Network, officials said earlier this year.

“The addition of Southern Regional as a formal partner in Emory Healthcare’s Clinically Integrated Network enables us to formalize our already strong partnership,” said Emory Healthcare CEO John Fox. “Collaboration is under way to increase patient access, integrate programs and plan for future expansion, all of which will benefit those who live in the Southern Crescent area.”

Dickerson said the Southern Regional name will not change, but he added some signage may be changed to add Emory’s name and logo.

The move should bring some financial stability to Southern Regional, which had to get the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to back $40 million in bonds, in 2009, to keep the hospital open. County officials previously said the financial stability provided by the agreement will allow the hospital to pay back the bonds at a faster rate.

Southern Regional and Emory have been courting each other for at least a couple of years, as part of a trend where large metro-area health care systems have eyed moves into the Southern Crescent.

The flirting between Emory and Southern Regional goes as far back as 2010, when they sought state permission to let Emory’s cardiothoracic doctors perform surgeries at Southern Regional. The request was dropped after Piedmont Healthcare expressed opposition. Piedmont later merged with Stockbridge-based Henry Medical Center.