AG's office hears arguments in Floyd and Atrium merger

Cherokee County Healthcare Authority attorney Dean Buttram Jr. speaks before a panel at the Forum on Friday concerning the merger of Floyd healthcare system with North Carolina-based Atrium healthcare system.

One more checkbox has been filled in concerning the merger of Floyd health care system and Atrium Health with a public hearing conducted at the Forum on Friday.

The overall process also includes a comprehensive review of the merger and with the hearing concluded, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia has 30 days to issue a final ruling regarding the merger.

“We have spent a lot of time crafting the agreements that will bring our two organizations together,” Kurt Stuenkel, Floyd president and CEO, said in a press release. “Our boards have chosen a great partner in Atrium Health, and I feel certain that the benefits are clearly evident and that within the next 30 days we will receive the approval that we desire.”

The panel heard comments, most of which were in favor of the merger and a release by Floyd Medical Center stated there were 65 accompanying letters in support.

The board of directors of the Hospital Authority of Floyd County voted to approve a membership substitution, essentially a merger between two healthcare entities, during a called meeting in March.

The proposed merger, once executed, establishes Atrium Health Georgia Inc., a subsidiary of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, as the sole member of Floyd Healthcare Management Inc.

The board also approved the restatement of the lease agreement between the Hospital Authority of Floyd County, the owner of the Floyd Medical Center building and property, and Floyd Healthcare Inc.

The alliance, which is likely the largest business deal in Floyd County history, will likely pump in excess of $650 million dollars into the Floyd system over the next 11 years.

Because the Floyd County and Polk County hospitals are not-for-profits, they must demonstrate to the state how the deal benefits the communities they serve, including providing safeguards for both public interest and financial security.

Another of Floyd’s hospitals, Cherokee Medical Center in Alabama, does not have to submit a proposal. Alabama does not have the same set of regulatory requirements.

One purpose of the merger is allow Floyd tap into Atrium’s larger market share and benefit from their purchasing power as well as clinical expertise.

The merger will also close out a debt to the county. Floyd County backed $127.5 million in bonds for expansion and upgrades at the hospital. As part of the deal Atrium will pay off those bonds.

With that loan payoff, the county will retain one seat on the 18-member Floyd Healthcare Management as well as a seat on the seven-member Hospital Authority of Floyd County board.

However, it will lose a second seat on the Floyd Healthcare Management Inc. board. That second seat came about as part of a 2003 deal when the county originally agreed to back bonds by Floyd Medical Center. Once the debt is no longer guaranteed by the county government, they are no longer guaranteed that second seat at the table.

As part of the merger, the Floyd Healthcare Management board will get two new members from Atrium.

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