VIDALIA, Ga. (WTOC) - How close is your nearest hospital?
If you live in rural Georgia, it can be farther away as small hospitals struggle, and others look for ways to compete.
In Vidalia, one regional hospital announced this week they could be joining one of the biggest companies in the country.
The hospital’s CEO says these negotiations are not a desperate attempt to keep the doors open, but a strategy for the future. He says they’re asking as many questions of the potential buyer as they are of them.
Meadows Regional announced this week they'd signed a letter of intent with HCA Healthcare. Meadows' CEO says they looked at several companies for started exclusive negotiations with HCA.
"They're the most successful operators of hospitals in the country. They're a 50-year-old company that has grown in size and stature to now operate 180 hospitals, many of them in communities just like ours,” Meadows President/CEO Alan Kent said.
This hospital started in the 60's under county ownership but shifted to a not-for-profit public hospital with a governing board appointed by the county. Kent says they're successful now but would need to align with a company to stay on the cutting edge and serve the community.
“They're making investments in cancer care, artificial intelligence and other fields and all of those will be part of our operation as we move forward,” Kent said.
He says the company has pledged to keep the 900 employees, 50 physicians from the beginning. He thinks that staff could get even bigger if HCA brings more programs here.
Kent says if this acquisition goes through, it could be finalized in the spring or summer of 2020.