Augusta University Health System (AUHS) announced Tuesday the signing of a letter of intent to join Wellstar Health System. The potential deal would join the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), the state’s only public medical school, with one of the largest safety net hospital operators in Georgia.
“This is good news for the Augusta region and for health care across our state. It means more doctors and medical service providers, more options for health care, and greater innovation in this field are coming to Georgia communities,” Governor Brian Kemp tweeted after the AUHS announcement.
“The potential partnership is the culmination of a thoughtful and deliberate process begun in 2019 by AUHS, its governing board and Augusta University to strategically grow MCG while expanding and improving both patient care and Georgians’ access to health care services across the state,” AUHS said in the press release.
Terms are still being developed, but AUHS hints at potential Wellstar investments into new facilities in its press release, expanding opportunities to train more healthcare providers amid a national shortage. The deal could give Wellstar more direct access to AUHS’ talent pool, including from MCG, which has one of the largest enrollments in the country. AUHS says the deal would expand digital healthcare options.
“AUHS, Augusta University and the Wellstar Health System have a shared mission to solve Georgia’s health care challenges,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said. “By joining forces and working together, we can leverage Wellstar’s clinical platform and leading-edge systems to support patients while providing more opportunities for students to learn, train and care for residents in local communities across Georgia.”
AUHS has lost $63 million since 2017 and has been looking for a partner since 2019, according to the AP. Nonprofit Wellstar has been criticized this year for closing Atlanta Medical Center (AMC), a safety net hospital providing care to low-income communities; Wellstar reported $114 million in an annual loss at AMC’s two locations in June 2022 while still reporting a net operating income of $106 million, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
Wellstar is largely Atlanta-based, and AUHS is largely Augusta-based. In 2020, Wellstar acquired five Tenet Healthcare hospitals, including AMC’s two campuses, in a $661 million deal, according to Healthcare.
“By bringing Augusta University Health System together with Wellstar Health System and leveraging our respective strengths, we would improve the health of the community, address social determinants of health and expand access to quality care for all Georgians,” Wellstar President and CEO Candice Saunders, FACHE, said in the AUHS release.
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