Talks of a possible future working relationship between officials of McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson and University Health Care System of Augusta currently are under way, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.
Such talks began about a month ago, according to Doug Keir, the chief executive officer of McDuffie Regional Medical Center. The talks were initiated by officials with University Health Care System.
"It is exciting news for our hospital," McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said after a recent commission work session.
During that same meeting, commissioners were asked to give their consent to local hospital authority board members continuing talks with University Hospital Health Care System on ways they might be able to assist with current and future challenges.
Mr. Keir told commissioners he would continue to keep them abreast about discussions with University Health Care System. Any decisions made regarding the future of the local hospital in a partnering manner will be brought before county commissioners, he pointed out.
Small rural hospitals across America are strapped with financial woes and in order to keep the doors open at those hospitals, those who operate them are looking for ways to partner with larger hospitals, Mr. Keir said.
"We're merely doing the same thing, because it just makes good sense," he added.
Mr. Whitaker echoed those sentiments.
"We are entering into increasingly difficult times for hospitals in the State of Georgia and collaboration among facilities is becoming quite common," Mr. Whitaker said. "University (Hospital) is one of the most respected and utilized hospitals for residents across the region, so it makes sense to collaborate with them."
University Hospital President/CEO James Davis says it's much too early to tell what direction these discussions might take.
"For McDuffie Regional to continue to provide excellent patient care and improve their facility, they will need access to capital, which is a big challenge for a small hospital in the changing healthcare environment," Mr. Davis said in a prepared statement.
"Working with McDuffie Regional is directly in line with our mission, along with our renewed spirit of collaboration that will be vital in the new era of healthcare we are entering."
At least a couple of meetings already have been held between officials of both medical facilities.
"Everything is up for exploring at this point, including networking, education, training, recruitment of doctors, etc.," Mr. Keir said. "Small rural hospitals like McDuffie Regional Medical Center will have to explore opportunities like these to keep the doors open."
McDuffie Regional Medical Center is an acute care hospital with a licensed capacity of 25 patient beds. The local hospital employs a total of 220 employees, including part-timers and on-call workers.