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Board to sell hospital

THOMSON --- The board that governs McDuffie County Regional Medical Center voted Tuesday to sell the hospital to University Health Care System in Augusta.

The financial elements of the agreement were not revealed.

Board President Bill Doupé read a motion that the board had drafted in a two-hour closed session. Copies of the motion were not made available to the public.

The board has been in talks with University for more than a year. Each month, the hospital board has heard reports of mounting losses. Cash reserves have not been exhausted, but are declining.

At the Sept. 26 meeting, the board learned that the hospital had 49 admissions in August, the lowest in its history. In August 2010, the hospital recorded 85 admissions.

According to the draft that the president read, the hospital board recognizes the difficulty of continuing to operate independently and the limited potential for expansion in its current location.

The motion agrees to a memorandum of understanding to accomplish the sale of substantially all assets except cash. It requires University to build a replacement hospital in McDuffie County.

Doupé said the motion is only the beginning of the sale process. He did not elaborate.

He said the hospital and University likely will hold a joint news conference in the next few days.

At an Aug. 29 meeting in Thomson, Doupé said the options have been studied carefully. He predicted a resolution to the discussions within 60 days. He said if the board did decide to sell the hospital, the transaction would be subject to scrutiny from the state Attorney General's Office. He said that process would include a public hearing.

At that time, McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said the in-patient portion of the hospital was 50 years old and nearing the end of its useful life.

"If we are going to continue there, that hospital is going to have to be torn down and replaced," Newton said then.

Hospital Administrator Doug Keir told the same forum that the hospital building is useful for only about five more years. He also said the hospital is losing about $1 million to $1.2 million a year.

Monthly financial reports have called further attention to declining admissions. At the end of August, the hospital's total cash and investments was $3.563 million, down $106,000 from the previous month.

Doupé has said the hospital board has been firm on the need to continue a medical use for the present facility, on Hill Street near Thomson's western edge.

Web posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011

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