GA Attorney General holds Memorial Health sale hearing

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr held a public hearing Friday regarding the sale of Savannah's public hospital, Memorial Health, to private company, Hospital Corporation of America.

By law, the attorney general is the one who must sign-off on the sale of a public hospital to a private company. Once the sale is final, the Memorial Board will cease to exist. It's being replaced with an advisory board, but members of both the Memorial Board and Chatham County Hospital Authority will serve on the new board - plus hospital management.

Three people from each will make up the new nine-member board. That board will no longer hold open meetings with the public because the hospital will be governed privately once the sale is approved. The Memorial Board will be dissolved and Chatham County Hospital Authority will become trustees of all proceeds from the sale.

"After closing, the Hospital Authority will be responsible for ensuring that HCA delivers on its commitments. In addition, the Georgia Hospital Authority Act requires the proceeds from the sale be placed in an irrevocable trust and the income granted by this trust will be used only for the provision of care for the indigent residents of Chatham County," said Dr. Frank Rossiter, Chairman, Chatham County Hospital Authority.

Until now, the only details we knew about the sale was what was laid out in HCA's letter of intent that they sent back in April. Most of those details have not changed, including maintaining core services like the Level 1 Trauma Center and NICU for the first 10 years, and charity care services for the uninsured.

They are also promising to complete the construction of the Children's Hospital and continue its affiliation with the Mercer University School of Medicine. For the first time, we heard from the newly-named CEO, Shayne George.

"This is really a homecoming for me. There are a lot of acquaintances that I have from working in Augusta. I also worked in Gainesville for a short time too," George said.

We're expecting to hear from all sides of the deal including HCA officials, Memorial Board members, and Chatham County Hospital Authority Board members.

There was an opportunity for members of the public to speak at the end. Nearly two dozen people signed up to speak, most of whom were from the medical community and the majority were in favor of the hospital sale.

"You know, we are going to take great care of the staff. We are excited about everyone that has dedicated their lives to a career in healthcare. The physicians are excited as well too. We want to be able to support all of that and the teaching aspect of it as well. Memorial brings so much to this entire region. We want to continue that on and enhance it in the future," Georgie said.

George says he expects to begin his transition process in December with the help and guidance of Interim CEO Kerry Watson.

The Attorney General will not be deciding Friday but he will likely make a decision before the end of the year.

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