The Northeast Georgia Health System will likely take over Habersham Medical Center in about five years.
NGHS and the hospital in Demorest have reached a definitive agreement on a five-year plan, which will begin in late November. It was first announced in May and was unanimously approved by the Habersham County Board of Commissioners on Monday. It requires NGHS to invest $3 million each year in capital improvements and expanded services in Habersham. During the five-year term, any money HMC makes beyond 20 days of cash-on-hand to support operations would be transferred to a fund. In late 2024, the Hospital Authority of Habersham County will apply the fund balance to the hospital’s bond debt, which is about $38.6 million.
Habersham County took on the hospital’s bond payments in 2014. NGHS’ payments over the five-year period cannot be directly used to pay off the debt.
Community members can learn more about the agreement at a public forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in HMC’s West-Wing Classroom.
During the five-year agreement, HMC leadership and staff will continue to operate the hospital under direction from the Hospital Authority of Habersham County, which unanimously approved the agreement Tuesday. Emergency and inpatient physicians from NGHS hospitals have been treating patients in Habersham since July 1 and will continue to do so under the agreement.
“We have a vision for the future of health care in Habersham County, which in turn impacts how care is delivered across our entire region,” Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS, said in a statement. “This plan will lead to updated facilities, improved services, advanced technology and better coordination for patients – closer to home.”
Lynn Boggs, CEO of HMC, said the agreement was long-needed.
“We’re thrilled to deliver this agreement, which can lead to security and stability for this community’s local hospital,” she said in a statement.
Kesha Clinkscale, HMC’s vice president of external affairs, said the Habersham hospital would invest the funding in information technology upgrades, capital assets and expanded services.
The Habersham hospital would join other Northeast Georgia Medical Center locations in Gainesville, Braselton, Barrow County and Lumpkin County. Several locations are relatively new to the health system, which opened the Braselton campus in 2015, opened the Lumpkin campus in July 2019 following the closure of Chestatee Regional Hospital, and acquired the Barrow campus in 2017.
Habersham Medical Center, a 53-bed hospital, employs more than 600 people and has a service area with 80,000 residents.