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What Northeast Georgia Health System hopes to get with $15M investment in Habersham hospital
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The Habersham Medical Center in Demorest. Photo courtesy Habersham Medical Center.

The Northeast Georgia Health System will be investing $15 million in Habersham Medical Center with hopes of buying the hospital after five years.

The Hospital Authority of Habersham County and the Habersham County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to approve a letter of intent between Habersham Medical Center, Habersham County and the health system.

Over the next five years, the health system will invest $3 million annually at the Demorest hospital to fund capital projects and services. During that time, any money the hospital makes beyond 20 days of cash on hand to support operations would be transferred to a fund. At the end of the five-year period, the fund would be used to pay off the county’s hospital debt.

The $3 million annual payments would only be allowed for improvements, such as infrastructure or electronic recordkeeping, not for normal operations or for debt.

Habersham County’s hospital debt totals about $38.6 million, according to the letter. Habersham County Manager Phillip Sutton said the county took on the hospital’s bond payments in 2014.

The agreement is an expansion of the health system’s plans to support an emergency department and inpatient services at the hospital starting July 1. Physicians that work at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville will be extending their coverage to the 53-bed hospital in Demorest, a partnership that had been discussed for years before an announcement in February.

“This would be a win-win for the future of our community,” Stacy Hall, chairman of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.  “Leaders at HMC and NGHS have a vision for how to continue improving health care for patients in Habersham County while also positively impacting the financial health of our local economy, and both of those moves better the lives of the people we all serve.”

Habersham Medical Center’s service area covers about 80,000 residents. The hospital also operates Habersham Home, a nursing facility, and HCMC Home Care, an agency for hospital-based home health providers.