July 17, 2015

ARMC Might Merge With Another Hospital


Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

Athens Regional Medical Center is considering a merger with another health care organization.

The full announcement from ARMC is below. The hospital met with employees and affiliated doctors Tuesday and Wednesday before releasing the news. 

For context, at least two top executives, including former CEO Jamey Thaw, were forced out in May 2014 over the botched implementation of a new electronic record-keeping system, among other issues. The move also came amidst rumors of a precarious financial situation for the health care group, which also includes several urgent-care clinics and a health insurance plan.

After being led by Chief Medical Officer James Moore for nine months, Athens Regional Health System appointed Charles Peck as CEO in February.

Here's the announcement:

We have made significant progress over the past year thanks in large part to our dedicated employees and physicians. During this time, we explored many ways to enhance our organization to best benefit patients and to strengthen our long-term outlook. The result is stability and signs of progress we didn’t have just a short while ago.

However, like so many health systems today, Athens Regional Health System still has significant challenges ahead.  The national healthcare environment is changing more rapidly and more profoundly than ever before. Hospitals are paid less for the services we provide, yet the demands on us – in providing primary care and population health management strategies, in improving the patient experience as our patients act more like consumers, in operational costs, and in information technology and quality – are increasing. These are coupled with a reduced demand for inpatient care, a shift toward outpatient care and an increase in competition within the region.

To ensure our organization continues to thrive and meet the needs of the community we serve, our Board of Directors has made an important decision that we want to share with our community: our Board has decided to explore a strategic partnership with another hospital, health system or healthcare organization who shares our mission, culture, values and commitment to excellence.

We believe now, when Athens Regional is becoming financially stronger every day, is the right time to consider a strategic partner. That’s why we’re exploring options today, from a position of relative strength and with sufficient time to conduct a thoughtful and thorough review on our own terms.

This decision comes after much thoughtful research and discussion, as well as engagement with a nationally recognized hospital strategic advisory firm, which learned about our organization, the way we operate, our finances and our culture. They studied who we are as a health system and a community in an effort to understand what Athens Regional is today – and what it can be in the future.

We want to assure you that we’ll base any potential partnership decision, first and foremost, on what’s best for patients and our people, and with the best interests of the health system, jobs and the community in mind.

To this end, the Board has developed criteria for evaluating a possible partner and determining whether a partner shares our vision for a future focused on continued innovation in caring for our communities. The eight guiding principles for the partnership search include finding a partner that will best:

  • Ensure Athens Regional remains a thriving, high quality health care system serving Athens and the Northeast Georgia region long-term;

  • Preserve community-oriented focus and provision of charity care;

  • Maintain and grow clinical services, including graduate medical education programs;

  • Generate access to sufficient capital to meet future capital needs and strengthen the balance sheet;

  • Build upon the medical staff by attracting new primary care physicians and specialists;

  • Develop population health capabilities in anticipation of the shift to value-based reimbursement

  • Expand our network to foster enhanced referral systems; and

  • Maintain significant local influence on the operations of Athens Regional.

During the next few months, the Board will consider a variety of options.  It’s far too early to speculate on the path the Board may choose, but we are committed to keeping you informed as this process unfolds throughout the next four to six months. When we have updates and new information to share, we will.

Importantly, as we go through this process, it’s business as usual at Athens Regional. You will see no disruptions in our services and day-to-day operations—we remain focused on providing quality patient care and putting people first.

We look forward to the exciting opportunities partnership could bring to Athens Regional and to the surrounding community.