0

Consolidation, tough economy, factors in Southern Regional deal

Photo by Jim Massara
Southern Regional CEO Jim Crissey shows Rotarians a picture of the banner that will announce the Emory partnership. He said it will be hung at the hospital this Friday.

Photo by Jim Massara Southern Regional CEO Jim Crissey shows Rotarians a picture of the banner that will announce the Emory partnership. He said it will be hung at the hospital this Friday.

— With only weeks to go before Emory Healthcare begins managing Southern Regional Medical Center, president and CEO Jim Crissey hit the road Wednesday to explain the move to the Clayton County Rotary Club.

“You look at the economy, you look at the closure of Fort Gillem, you look at the closure of Fort McPherson, you look at the mortgage rate, you look at the school system here ... and it’s tough,” Crissey said, pausing for emphasis. “I’m just going to tell you, it’s tough. So our board decided we need to be looking for a partner.”

Final agreement on the arrangement, set to start Oct. 1, was announced earlier this week.

Crissey told the lunch group that “consolidation of the market place” — with providers like Piedmont and WellStar snapping up other metro hospitals — along with continued losses at Southern Regional led to the Emory partnership.

“That is good news for the citizens of this county,” Crissey said.

He added that it was in Clayton’s best interest that Southern Regional remain not-for-profit because of its charitable mission and status as “a safety-net” hospital.

“The reason we did this was to give us the opportunity to be not just a good community hospital, but a great community hospital,” Crissey said.

Rotarians later asked Crissey questions, mostly about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — might affect Southern Regional’s operations.

“It’s just taking out of one pocket and putting it in another,” Crissey said. “We get squeezed in the middle, big time.”

That’s especially true at Southern Regional, which according to Crissey racked up about $81.5 million in gross uncompensated charges in recently ended fiscal year 2012, thanks to patients who couldn’t pay their bills.

“Again, I’d ask you, how long can you survive losing that kind of dollars?” Crissey said. “It’s tough, it’s really tough.”