Lack of physicians blamed for Augusta University health system’s nearly $9 million loss

Augusta University’s health system lost nearly $9 million last fiscal year, in part because of a lack of physicians to treat patients, officials said.

 

An aggressive recruiting campaign already has landed 40 new faculty members who will come in the next couple of months, however, and the search is on for key positions such as the director of the Georgia Cancer Center.

AU Health System’s board also voted Thursday to streamline the health system’s governance to one main board to improve efficiency.

AU Health lost $8.8 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30 mainly because of a lack of clinicians to treat patients, said state Board of Regents member Jim Hull, the chairman of the health system’s Finance Committee.

“We lost a number of faculty last July, and that’s what accounted for our poor financial performance,” said Medical College of Georgia Dean David Hess, who sits on the health system board.

“That‘s a huge impact because it is so tight,” he said. “Your margin is so tight that just a small change can have so much of an effect,” he said.

Some faculty members left and others were allowed to leave because they were a poor fit for the health system, Hess said.

“We feel it is critically important to get more faculty and the right kind of faculty,” Hess said. “My No. 1 focus is recruitment and retention of the best faculty.”

The health system has 40 new providers coming in September and October, and 73 additional positions are actively being recruited, said Greg Damron, the chief financial officer for AU Medical Center. Many of those new employees are people who are returning to the health system, he said.

The health system wants to ramp up its services in cancer, such as radiation oncology, and needs to recruit surgical subspecialties, Hess said.

“The Georgia Cancer Center director search is going to be critically important,” he said, and candidates are coming in for that position next month.

The AU Health Board’s vote to change the governance of the health system reduced the size and scope of its other governing boards that oversaw the medical center and the physician practice group and reduced the number of committees, allowing it to operate as a “true health system,” said Lee Little, the general counsel.

“This just eliminates a tremendous amount of duplication,” said Augusta University President Brooks Keel, the chairman of the health system board and the CEO of the health system.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213

or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

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