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West Georgia Health agreement moves forward

Boards vote to partner; AG approval last hurdle

By Matthew Strother

mstrother@civitasmedia.com

Governing bodies approved the partnership between West Georgia Health and Marietta-based WellStar Health System on Thursday. The partnership must now be approved by the state Attorney General’s office.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/11/web1_STOCK-WGHrgb.jpgGoverning bodies approved the partnership between West Georgia Health and Marietta-based WellStar Health System on Thursday. The partnership must now be approved by the state Attorney General’s office.

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LaGRANGE — The proposed partnership between West Georgia Health and the Marietta-based WellStar Health System will move into its final phase after three West Georgia Health boards and the WellStar board all approved the move Thursday.

The West Georgia Health Services board, West Georgia Medical Center governing board and LaGrange-Troup County Hospital Authority met back-to-back Thursday — the boards share many of the same members — to approve the agreement. It will now be sent it to the state Attorney General’s office for review. Mike Patton, chairman of the WGH Board of Trustees, told the group that the WellStar board also had approved the agreement earlier in the evening.

“Thank you for all of your time and work you’ve put in over the last year and a half,” Patton told the board members after the agreements were approved.

Now that each health system’s boards have signed off on the agreement, it is up to the state Attorney General to approve the agreement, which is expected to take 90 to 100 days, said Jan Nichols, spokesperson for West Georgia Health. Part of the review process will be a public hearing hosted by the Attorney General’s office, said Jerry Fulks, WGH president and CEO, after Thursday’s meeting. He and WellStar officials likely will be called to “testify” and answer questions from the public, he said.

“At the conclusion of the due diligence process, I am excited that we are moving forward with our partnership with WellStar Health System,” stated Fulks in a press release. “Through a rigorous evaluation of numerous potential partners, we determined that WellStar is an ideal partner. Our diligence has confirmed that WellStar is the right fit for our community, allowing us to continue to focus on providing high quality care, improve access to health care and controlling cost.”

As part of the agreement, WellStar has committed to $84 million in capital investments of West Georgia Health facilities. West Georgia Health will also have two members on WellStar’s 18-member board of trustees.

WellStar also would become the new manager of West Georgia Medical Center. The brick-and-mortar hospital is owned by the LaGrange-Troup County Hospital Authority, which currently leases the property to WGH. One of the approved agreements Thursday would make WellStar the new lessee.

“West Georgia Health does an excellent job of caring for its community,” stated Candice Saunders, president and CEO of WellStar Health System, in a press release. “By partnering with the leading healthcare provider in LaGrange, we will improve the continuity and access to care for patients throughout the state, while continuing to deliver on our vision to deliver world-class healthcare to our communities. … We anticipate a smooth regulatory review process and look forward to implementing our partnership.”

Editor’s note: See the Weekend edition for a more detailed breakdown of the agreement and impact of the partnership between West Georgia Health and WellStar.

Matthew Strother is editor at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.