Burke Medical Center weighing new management

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Burke Medical Center is weighing two proposals to take over operations of the financially struggling hospital. Both would involve adding more lucrative services the 40-bed hospital doesn’t offer, such as surgeries and cardiology, the chairman of the Burke County Hospital Authority said.

The hospital is managed by Health Span, a company composed of seven hospital physicians. Health Span has been running the hospital for the past 14 years, said authority chairman Gerald Murray.

But Burke doesn’t offer some services that receive higher reimbursement, such as surgery, Murray said.

“(Health Span) is not a multi-specialty group, and the only way our hospital can survive is to grow and provide more services,” he said.

The hospital also carries a heavy load of Medicare and Medicaid patients, “and those reimbursements have been dwindling,” Murray said.

Since October, the hospital has been operating at a loss and the authority had to loan Health Span $600,000 to cover an even larger loss, he said.

Last May, Health Span notified the hospital authority it was not going to renew its lease, which ends May 31.

“They just decided it was time to move on and let somebody else take over,” Murray said.

The authority is looking at two management proposals, he said. One is a lease offer from Optim Healthcare, a physician-owned company that operates hospitals in Screven and Jenkins counties.

The other is a management offer from PartnersFirst Management, which operates a once-struggling hospital in Candler County, Murray said.

“They have done a remarkable job down there” to put the hospital in the black, he said.

Both offers would involve bringing in more specialists and providing more services, Murray said.

The hospital authority is hoping to decide within the next few weeks.

If it chooses the Optim lease option it likely will require approval from the Georgia Attorney General’s office, which involves a public hearing and can take awhile, he said.

“We’re kind of getting pushed for time if we go that direction,” Murray said.

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