We appreciate your thoughtful editorial comment on Floyd’s recently announced strategic combination with Atrium Health. As you noted, there are many details involved and we welcome discussion with our community, as well as the opportunity to address questions.

Here are some insights which address some of the important issues you mentioned.

• Floyd is in a strong financial position – right now. However, like health systems across the country, Floyd is experiencing pressures and increased competition, and these challenges will continue to grow in the future. To date, our team has been able to navigate these changes successfully. However, we must look to the future, and we must make the necessary moves to grow and thrive. Standing still was never an option.

• As part of our two-year process, we conducted an extensive and thoughtful assessment of potential partners. Our criteria focused on ensuring that a partnership would not only help us continue to serve our patients and community, but also enhance our abilities and capabilities. As part of this process, we talked to leaders within organizations like Navicent Health in Macon, which recently combined with Atrium Health, to understand their experience.

• After lengthy consideration, it was clear to us that Atrium Health is the ideal partner to help us serve our patients and our community. We found the right fit of mission, commitment to patients, physicians, employees and community, as well as industry-leading best practices and willingness to invest in Floyd and the communities we serve.

• You identified the sizable $650 million-dollar financial commitment over 11 years including the $80 million contribution to the Floyd Healthcare Foundation that will be made by Atrium Health that will improve our capabilities, facilities, and technology, and help impact health disparities in our region. This is a significant win for the communities we serve. Through Atrium Health’s investment, more people in our communities will have access the best possible health care, close to home, and Floyd will be well positioned to continue serving the region for generations to come.

• You also highlighted that we are the largest employer in this county – a responsibility we take seriously. With the investments of capital and access to the best practices and learnings of the entire Atrium Health system, we will be a stronger organization and we will be able to offer new resources to our employees, who are guaranteed their current positions, salaries and benefits for at least a year after the agreement is completed. Some have wondered what happens after that year. Certainly, we will look for efficiencies wherever we can find them, because that is the responsibility of good management. However, we are confident that our combination with Atrium Health will fuel our growth and ultimately result in more local career opportunities.

• You noted the impact of this agreement on the bonds guaranteed by Floyd County that have helped us grow and expand our facilities and technology. Atrium Health has deep financial resources and will remove the county backing of the bonds. Floyd County will have no responsibility whatsoever regarding Floyd bonds both now and in the future. This relieves our community from guaranteeing a significant debt of approximately $120 million.

• Local control was an important consideration for all potential partners and Atrium Health offered Floyd the greatest local control of any organization. We have carefully fact-checked that this is a commitment that has been fulfilled at other hospitals that have joined Atrium Health. Our agreement and the Board structures that will be put in place are also indicative of this commitment.

• You note that in several areas, “only time will tell,” and of course that’s true about all aspects of life. Rarely are there guarantees. Had we not made the decision to enter into a strategic combination, and to select Atrium, we would still be in a “time will tell” position but stuck in the status quo and going it alone. We believe that the challenges facing health care organizations make a powerful case for change – sensible, rational, carefully considered and cautiously planned change. We are confident that as time does pass, the ultimate tell will be a stronger, more vibrant combined Floyd and Atrium Health that will continue to play a key role in the health of all the communities we serve.

Kurt Stuenkel is president and CEO of Floyd Health System.

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