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Health systems study how to combine efforts
NE Ga., Habersham officials not planning merger but will coordinate with health law
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Board and management officials from Habersham Medical Center and Northeast Georgia Health System announced Friday their intention to coordinate efforts amidst looming health care reform.

“It’s more of an education process, along with strategic planning. How can the two entities look as we head in to the future with the Affordable Health Care Act being passed?” NGMC Authority Chairman Benny Bagwell said.

Board leaders and administrative personnel have been involved thus far in planning the initiative, NGHS spokeswoman Melissa Tymchuk said.

Bagwell said the talks began around five to six months ago.

“There’s pieces of the ACA that we’re all trying to figure out our way around, asking ‘What does that mean exactly?’” he said.

Helping them through the process is an outside group.

“We’ve engaged a third party group, the Dixon-Hughes group. There doing a sort of inventory, if you will, as to how we have worked together in the past, and what are the opportunities in the future,” he said.

HMC has faced tough economic times. The Hospital Authority approved a cost-reduction plan in February that reduced employee benefits, cut overtime and other expenses.

“Basically, in our view, Habersham, the success of that hospital is very important to the whole region,” Bagwell said.

There are no plans at this time for a merger between the two organizations, a press release stated.

The release also stated that there are no specific plans for layoffs at HMC, and that the assessment process would help determine what is needed to assure HMC is in a stable financial position.

NGHS and the Medical Center in Gainesville-Hall County have long served as a regional referral center to communities throughout Northeast Georgia, including Habersham and White counties.

“Our medical staff already works in partnership with providers affiliated with Northeast Georgia Health System to care for patients in our area with advanced medical needs,” said Dr. Rhett Weaver, a member of the Habersham Hospital Authority, in the release.

Some of the planned changes include the movement for electronic medical records.

Bagwell said more issues to tackle will be navigating the insurance-reimbursement exchanges, which Gov. Nathan Deal said the state would not participate in, opting instead for the federal exchange.