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Hospital talks stay secret in 2 meetings

The board of the McDuffie County Hospital Authority met in closed session Monday and Tuesday evenings to discuss "strategic initiatives."

After meeting in executive session for almost five hours over the two evenings, the board took no votes and held no public discussion that shed any light on the future of McDuffie Regional Medical Center.

Discussions began last fall between the Thomson hospital and Augusta-based University Health Care System. By March, University tendered an offer to buy the hospital.

Details of the offer still have not been disclosed.

The board convened Monday night at 6:30 to hear from a series of guests, according to hospital authority Chairman Bill Doupe. One of the presenters was unable to attend. About 8 p.m., the board continued the meeting until Tuesday evening.

After resuming the meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Doupe said a presenter had plane trouble Monday and was unable to attend that evening. The board then met with three guests for more than an hour, and continued the closed session until almost 9 p.m.

When the public session resumed, it was only for the formality of adjournment. Doupe and other board members made no announcements.

Under a confidentiality agreement, the hospital authority and University are barred from discussing the offer or negotiations.

Although the public has not been part of the discussion, the hospital board has heard from elected officials. On May 4, Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry told the board that the county needs a hospital in order to attract industry.

Hospital officials have said the decline in admissions is hurting the hospital financially. Chief Executive Officer Doug Keir also has said McDuffie Regional Medical Center is providing more indigent care and is getting reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.

The hospital board meets at 6:30 p.m. the fourth Monday.

Web posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011

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