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November 21--  The chairman of the holding board at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia says aggressive recruiting of top quality medical personnel will continue following a nearly $12.9 million settlement with the federal and state governments alleging over payment of some physicians by the hospital and questionable billing practices in violation of the False Claims Act.

Mike Calhoun has been board chair for 20 years and makes no apology for spending money to attract good physicians, "Just because we live in a rural community doesn't mean we should have lower quality heath care than someone who lives in an urban area. We're going to press forward and always try to recruit the highest quality physician, nurse and practitioner that we can for our community.

"It might mean we have to be a little more aggressive. I equate it to football in the sense that Atlanta Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan might throw an interception every now and then, but that doesn't mean they stop passing the ball.  They come back out and they have to pass and that's what we're going to do.  We're going to keep working and recruiting aggressively to bring these good quality physicians and nurses to our community," he said.

alanbriefingMedical Center CEO Alan Kent briefed a breakfast group of citizens Tuesday morning and explained the hospital's settlement with the government and said the first part of the payback is a check from the medical center to the Department of Justice for nearly $2.9 million.  He said the medical center's insurance company will also make a partial payment and the balance will be paid in installments over a five-year period depending on the hospital's net income each year.

Among those attending the meeting, Vidalia insurance agent Steve Brown, says you can't put a dollar value on the lives saved by the doctors at Meadows, including his own.

"During these last 20 years in Toombs County, I had the opportunity to seek care wherever I wanted to go.  It was in the beginning stages of some of these physicians who were recruited by our hospital and, as a result of that, my life was saved by a doctor who was recruited.  When you make a tremendous difference and you take some risks sometimes, there are consequences even if you don't really understand them as you're making them.  In retrospect, they are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks, but I'm still going to be supportive because I wouldn't be standing here today in the absence of it," Brown said.