(The following news release was distributed Wednesday, Oct. 5, by University Health Care System.)
AUGUSTA — McDuffie County Hospital Authority on Oct. 4 unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the creation of a University Health Care System hospital in Thomson. While part of University Health Care System, the hospital will also be very much a McDuffie County hospital, officials say.
McDuffie Regional Board Chairman Bill Doupe said the move toward affiliation with University comes after a process of long-term strategic planning.
"During this process, the authority has acknowledged its ability to survive long-term as an unaffiliated, small rural hospital is questionable," Doupe said. "We recognize that most of the current campus is aging and that while the authority has little debt, our access to capital for improvements or replacement of the campus is severely limited. We have come to the conclusion that working with a local, nonprofit health care system with a long history of serving patients with high-quality care is best for the future of McDuffie County and us being able to continue to provide quality patient care in our county.''
The agreement provides for operation of the current hospital and the expansion of health care services, as well as the construction of a replacement hospital, all at no expense to taxpayers or the Authority. Under the agreement, University plans to offer employment to all McDuffie Regional's qualified employees with comparable wages, benefits and maintenance of seniority.
"Given healthcare reform and deficit reduction in Washington, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small hospitals to survive in these economically challenging times," explained James R. Davis, president/CEO of University Health Care System. "This collaboration between University Health Care System and McDuffie Regional Medical Center is a way to make it possible for McDuffie County to have an economically viable hospital for the future. We have a long way to go, but the signing of this memorandum of understanding is a major milestone in the journey to ensuring quality care is available to the greater McDuffie County area."
Based on the memorandum, both parties will negotiate a definitive agreement, which will be submitted to the state attorney general's office for review. If the agreement meets with his approval, University Health Inc. will become the owner/operator of McDuffie Regional Medical Center. The agreement could become operational as early as January 2012.