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January 29--  Meadows Health in Vidalia is considering partnering with a larger hospital group to sustain service and grow in the future.

At a Tuesday morning briefing, Meadows Healthcare Alliance Board Chairman Mike Calhoun said, "Any rural hospital which is not doing what we're doing right now, looking at options, looking forward and paying attention to the trends, they're going to be in real trouble three, four, five, six years down the road."

mrmcmikealanCalhoun (front) and Alan Kent discuss Meadows' Initiative

Meadows has sent out requests for proposals to a handful of unidentified medical groups and expects to get replies within two to four weeks. CEO Alan Kent says now is the time to test the water, "One of the most important things to realize is that Meadows is profitable, Meadows has a strong balance sheet and this is not a must do situation.  We are certainly not responding to distress.  What we are looking for is the opportunity to see these options for continuing our growth and continuing to be strong and not waiting for a future where we might have fewer options."

Kent says any new partnership must provide a pathway to grow Meadows' medical services, "We are looking for a partner that can help fuel our growth and our mission.  I believe the ultimate partner the board would choose would be an organization that matches us culturally and that is interested in growing our business. I think we've got opportunities for Meadows to expand its reach and expand its employment in the region, not just hold on to what we've got."

Kent says once other organizations respond to Meadows' requests, the board will examine the responses and determine whether to proceed.  If the answer is yes, negotiations on the deal will follow and could lead to a partnership or affiliation with a larger organization in 2019.

Alan Kent Provided Background on Meadows' Plans

"Trends in American healthcare and the constant pressures on hospitals, rural hospitals in particular, are leading to more consolidation throughout the industry. While many hospitals, especially larger ones in more urban areas, are doing well, these pressures have been most intense in smaller and rural facilities, leading to many changes in operations including mergers and acquisitions. Meadows is not immune to these trends. We are approaching the issues from a position of strength before external factors drive us to any position where we might be faced with fewer options.

"Meadows is financially and operationally sound with a modern facility, amazing medical staff, and a solid balance sheet. We are profitable through the first six months of the year and therefore this is not a “distress call” or a must-do situation. Accordingly, the Board has determined that now is the time to plan for the future and how we might best be prepared for the continuing evolution of the American healthcare system. A partner with an appropriate capital commitment can potentially help us meet our financial needs and assist us in achieving our goals to continue to grow in size, quality, and service to our entire region for many years to come.

"We operate in an environment of great complexity and the economic realities of our community have a very real impact on the ability of a hospital to operate profitably. Meadows is unique in the state of Georgia with its history of success in providing the region with advanced medical technology and a wide range of high quality specialty physicians and services that include heart, cancer and obstetrical care. However, we live in a rural market without some of the economic advantages available in larger cities. We have been experiencing the negative impact of growing indigent, charity and uncompensated care due to changes in demographics and government policy. And unlike almost every other small hospital in the state, Meadows receives no financial support from city or county governments.

"One thing is for certain: We will make our determinations with the best interests of this organization, this community, this region, and our present and future patients forefront in our minds. This process is exactly that: an effort to evaluate our options. We have reached no foregone conclusion but plan to examine whether there is an opportunity to partner with an organization that would help us continue to deliver on our mission and ensure a stable healthcare system for many years to come. We are excited about the future of Meadows and believe that this self-examination process will result in the best outcomes for our community."