2 firms left in competition to see who will operate Burke Medical Center

By: Justin Fabiano Email
By: Justin Fabiano Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, April 16, 2012

WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- The search continues for a company to operate the Burke Medical Center as the Burke County Hospital Authority met with the public to tell them about the two options.

Optim of Savannah and Partners First of Statesboro have completely different plans for the existing hospital.

"Once Optim becomes profitable, they keep all the profit," said Gerald Murray, chairman of the Hospital Authority. "[For the] first three years, the county is paying them $600,000, whether they make a profit or not."

He says basically the county would be taking a low-risk, but low-reward approach with Optim. If they take a chance on Partners First, however, it would be quite the opposite.

"Once the hospital becomes profitable, then the county and the authority keeps all the profit, so all the money stays here in Burke County," Murray said.

However, the Hospital Authority still has to repay its debts to Healthspan, the hospital's current operator. Under Partners First's offer, the authority may have to absorb the debt, whereas Optim has agreed to pay off all the debt.

Under each agreement, the Hospital Authority would still have to maintain the facility. Optim would pay out over $1,000,000 to cover Healthspan's debts, which would help operate and maintain the facility. Partners First wouldn't allocate any operational or maintenance funds until if and when the hospital becomes profitable.

Then, of course, there are jobs. Partners First would hire a new hospital administrator, a chief financial officer and a chief nursing officer. They would fire an administrator and a secretary.

Optim would fire an administrator, chief financial officer, eight accounting staff members, four medical records staff members, an HR person and a secretary. They would hire a part-time administrator and a chief nursing officer. They would also hire a CFO as well as billing, HR and medical records personnel, but those positions would be based out of Savannah.

With some of these comparisons in hand, the Hospital Authority now has to make a decision. They say it will be a difficult one, but it will be one made in the next few weeks.

"[The] hospital will be better off either way," Murray said.

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