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Swade Warren, a fourth-grader at Model Elementary School

Looking at the Floyd Healthcare merger: Competition and local control, an analysis

Competition and a nationwide trend toward hospital system mergers as massive medical conglomerates vie for buying power has led to a merger proposal between Floyd Healthcare Management and North Carolina-based Atrium Health.

That competition can best be illustrated by the state-regulated certificate of need battles between our two local hospitals.

In the past year Redmond Regional Medical Center has been approved by the state to step into the ring to provide labor and delivery services — an area in which Floyd Medical Center has been the sole local provider for some years.

Redmond’s proposal calls for the development of a $21.8 million unit with nine labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, one cesarean section room and a seven-bassinet holding nursery with one isolation bassinet.

However, Redmond’s obstetrics request has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle since its approval.

Also in the past year, the state denied FMC’s request to provide open heart surgery services — a service provided solely by Redmond. Floyd Healthcare Management filed an appeal, docketed on Oct. 28, with the Georgia Court of Appeals. The calendar date for that appeal to be heard is in February.

What happens with that remains to be seen.

Nationally local

Our other local hospital Redmond Regional Medical Center is already part of a national healthcare system, HCA Healthcare — a Fortune 500 company that has billions of dollars of assets. HCA hospital locations span across the country.

More locally, the health system owns Cartersville Medical Center, Eastside Medical Center in Snellville, Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Memorial Health Medical Center in Savannah, Doctors Hospital of Augusta as well as numerous others.

In Tennessee, where HCA originated, the hospital system owns facilities in Chattanooga — several facilities including Parkridge Medical Center — and the TriStar system in Nashville.

Redmond Regional Medical Center

Comparatively, Atrium has a network of nearly 40 hospitals and 900 service delivery locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

According to recent reports on mergers nationwide by consulting firms Kaufman Hall and Deloitte, healthcare mergers and acquisitions have continued to focus on what they term as “strategic growth.”

Hospitals are seeking out partners who bring strong operational capabilities or innovative clinical models to their markets, the report stated.

At this point there’s no reason to expect that Floyd Medical Center would be any different than Redmond — a locally operated hospital that’s part of a much larger network.

Additionally as part of the deal Atrium has agreed to invest a total of $80 million in cash at the close of the deal to the Floyd Healthcare Foundation, which supports health related programs in our community. FMC officials have said interest from that $80 million will be used to address health needs related to indigent care and social issues in the region.

Board members and more specifically Floyd Healthcare Management attorney Tommy Manning described the deal as one which allots a large amount of local participation and control when the proposed deal was announced.

At part of the published aspects of the deal Atrium will get two seats at the local table — the other 18 or so are hometown folks. It’s not been discussed publicly whether or not the number of seats on that board will expand to fit the new members. Also as part of the deal Floyd Healthcare Management gets a seat on Atrium’s board.

Local deals

So where does that leave Harbin Clinic?

Good question, and the answer at this point hasn’t been specifically addressed openly.

Floyd Medical Center President Kurt Stuenkel at the announcement of the proposed deal with Atrium last week said all of the executive, physician and employment contracts at Floyd Medical Center will be honored once the deal is completed.

Both Floyd and Redmond contract the services of Harbin doctors. From orthopedics to sports medicine to open heart surgery to obstetrics the privately owned physician group has a lot of influence in this area.

Of late, if you take billboards and advertisements as a test the physician group has been focusing its growth southward into Cartersville.

Doug Walker  

The new Harbin Clinic pediatrics building is taking shape on John Maddox Drive in West Rome. The facility is expected to open sometime in the middle of 2020.

It’s also invested a good bit of capital into a two-floor, 40,900-square-foot pediatrics building on Redmond Road — near other buildings housing Harbin practices and across from Redmond Regional Medical Center.

Currently, Harbin Clinic’s obstetrics and pediatric doctors are housed at the 330 Physicians Center on the Floyd Medical Center Campus as well as another location on North Fifth Avenue.

But when Harbin’s new building is populated and their pediatrics operations in Rome are consolidated in one place, it will be right across the road from Redmond’s new obstetrics wing.

Rome City School Buses are coming

The Rome City Schools system is on schedule to roll out their new buses on Jan. 7, and it’s been a long road to get to this point.

Following the shock of a Georgia Department of Transportation audit calling for an end to the 35-year arrangement to transport students on Rome Transit Department buses, things are finally wrapping up.

Here’s what’s happening.

RCS just closed on property to park the buses

For a price tag of about $1.15 million, the land purchased to park the buses will be ready by the end of January, according to RCS Superintendent Lou Byars. The land is near Rome Middle and High Schools across the loop on Three Rivers Drive. Along with that, the property will also have an office trailer to house at least four employees.

The employees include a transportation director, a planning director and two route coordinators. Byars said one of the route coordinators will be in charge of training.

“We have to run water, power and put a fence up,” said Byars. “We also need security cameras.”

The district also needs to put gravel on the ground. Right now, the buses are parked at the vacant General Electric plant on Redmond Circle.

RCS is still hiring bus drivers, and they get benefits

RCS said there are already about 28 bus drivers ready to begin on Jan. 7, but they are still looking for more.

“You can’t ever have too many bus drivers,” said Byars.

He’s hoping to hire at least 30. Bus drivers will be considered full-time employees with health insurance paid by the school board.

According to a job posting on the RCS website, the minimum requirements include a valid driver’s license, a high school diploma or GED and a clear background check.

While there are only 20 routes, Byars said the need for more comes from the possibility of absenteeism and the hope to be able to schedule more field trips.

“Before we only had four buses for field trips,” he said.

“It was first come, first serve,” Dawn Williams, the assistant superintendent agreed.

Starting salary for the full-time position is $12,780 for 5 hours of guaranteed driving time, according to the RCS website.

Parents won’t be able to use the Tripper app to keep up with kids

Byars said parents have not weighed in too much on the change, likely because there aren’t many differences aside from the color of the buses: yellow.

When RTD is done taking the children to school, however, parents won’t be able to use the Tripper app to identify the student bus routes. The Tripper app, a GPS application used by parents to determine stop times, bus routes, and school locations, debuted in July of 2018. The superintendent did say the district is looking at different technology to get there.

Santa and candy canes welcome huge crowd to Downtown Rome Saturday

Every parking space on Broad Street was full Saturday during the half hour leading up to the annual Parks and Recreation Candy Cane Hunt on the Town Green.

While the candy cane hunt itself didn’t last but just a few minutes, people were lined up for most of the three-hour window for trolley rides with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Recreation Department personnel spread 20,000 mini candy canes across the Town Green, a process that took a whole lot longer than it took hundreds of children to snatch them up once Santa gave them the green light.

The event helped kick-off the holiday shopping season downtown as Broad Street merchants welcomed visitors to the downtown area with Christmas decorations and holiday specials.

Matt and Annette Moore were jewelry shopping at Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers.

“I did two laps around and was wondering what was going on downtown,” Matt Moore said. Annette Moore chipped in that once she saw the trolley and Santa on the back she knew that it was a special day.

Jan Fergerson said that special event days like Saturday are always a plus for business.

“It’s exciting and fun,” Fergerson said. “It’s great to see so much activity on Broad Street.”

Megan Treglown, marketing director for the Rome Downtown Development office, said the day couldn’t have been much better.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and the crowds have really come out,” Treglown said. “We’ve had a couple of sidewalk sales and the Christmas decoration competition kicked off. I’ve stopped in to see a few of them and they (merchants) all seem pretty happy.”

Many of the downtown Rome merchants plan special activities for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, and a special late hour shopping event for the Broad Street businesses has been scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 12.

Sunday is also going to be a special day downtown as Forum on Ice opens its run through Jan. 6. Skaters are able to purchase wristbands good for all day so they can skate a while, go shop or eat downtown, and then return to the rink to skate of use the new ice slide this year. The rink will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.