West Georgia Health to host public forum in LaGrange on WellStar deal

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 26, 2015

LaGRANGE — Officials with West Georgia Health are slated to host a public forum Tuesday on their proposed partnership with Marietta-based WellStar Health System.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Enoch Callaway Cancer Clinic Auditorium, 111 Medical Drive. West Georgia Health CEO Jerry Fulks will make a brief presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session.

“In the months leading up to the announcement, we were unable to offer specifics on the process, but promised the members of our community that we would host a meeting after a partner was selected to offer information on the process, as well as the partner we chose,” wrote WGH’s marketing director Jan Nichols in an email to the Daily News. “We have scheduled the meeting for next week to fulfill that promise.”

The presentation is aimed at educating the public on current trends in health care, why the WGH-WellStar partnership was proposed, as well as how the decision was made and what the public can expect in coming months.

“… We announced in May that we selected WellStar to enter into a strategic partnership,” Nichols said. “This announcement came on the heels of a yearlong search for a health care organization with whom we could align to meet the challenges of the evolving trends in health care today.

The public forum is one of many speaking engagements hospital officials have held around Troup County since the announcement of the proposed partnership.

“Over the past month, we have presented this program to a variety of civic clubs and organizations throughout Troup County, as well as the most recent Early Bird Breakfast of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce,” Nichols said. “But we know we haven’t reached everyone who may have an interest in learning more about our proposed partnership with WellStar.”

The deal is not a sale of the hospital, Fulks said in May, and the two entities have entered into an ongoing 90-day review period that will require regulatory approval by state government officials, including the state attorney general.

The move to join WellStar was made because of increasingly complicated government regulation under the Affordable Care Act – also called “Obamacare” – and is aimed at reducing costs and increasing the quality of care, according to a handout from WGH.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent a clear message Thursday that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is here to stay, rejecting a major challenge that would have imperiled the landmark law and health insurance for millions of Americans.

The 6-3 ruling, which upheld financial aid to millions of low- and middle-income Americans to help pay for insurance premiums regardless of where they live, was the second major victory in three years for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of the law.

If people are unable to attend and want to submit questions or comments, they may email them to communityfeedback@wghealth.org, and WGH will incorporate answers to their questions to the Frequently Asked Questions page related to this partnership found at www.wghealth.org, Nichols said.

WellStar Health System is the largest nonprofit health system in Georgia, according to a press release from WGH. It serves more than 1.4 million people in five metropolitan-Atlanta counties, including Cobb, Douglas and Paulding.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.