Wellstar Health-Augusta Health deal gets OK from USG board

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted Friday to approve Augusta University Health System’s proposed acquisition of WellStar Health System.

WellStar will become the corporate parent of the Augusta Health System, a nine-hospital system based in Marietta, Georgia, which includes the 600-bed AU Medical Center, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the Georgia Cancer Center, Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation, and the University of Georgia. Specialty hospitals and a physician practice. transaction, which is Other recent health system affiliations with academic medical centers As they aim to boost physician recruitment and retention, it is expected to close in the summer, pending regulatory approval. The companies signed a letter of intent in December.

the deal comes on the heels WellStar is closing the Atlanta Medical Center, a 460-bed safety-net hospital and one of two Level 1 trauma centers in the city. Wellstar closed the hospital in November, displacing low-income patients and sparking an outcry from the community and local and state officials.

Wellstar said that keeping the Atlanta Medical Center open was not financially sustainable. Other area hospitals, such as Grady Memorial Hospital, have since experienced higher volumes and longer wait times. A Wellstar spokeswoman did not say whether the deal with Augusta would have any impact on the Atlanta Medical Center.

Under the agreement with Augusta, Wellstar pledged to invest approximately $800 million over 10 years in Augusta facilities and infrastructure, including building a new hospital in nearby Columbia County. The affiliation will increase the number of physicians trained and advanced research in Georgia, Candice Saunders, president and CEO of WellStar Health System, said during a news conference Friday.

“We will train more physicians to help address the critical physician shortage in our state,” Saunders said.

A Wellstar spokesperson said the Wellstar board will become the de facto governing body for Augusta, which will otherwise continue to operate as it does today. The spokesman said the Medical College of Georgia would remain independent of the combined entity.

Wellstar reported $105.8 million in operating income on revenue of $4.57 billion in fiscal 2022, which ended June 30. That was down from $377.1 million in operating income in fiscal 2021 on revenue of $4.25 billion. The cash in hand of the company fell from 208 to 160. over that period.

Augusta, which generates about $1.1 billion in annual revenue, reported operating losses for each of its last three fiscal years.

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