Originally created 09/16/99

MCG Health seeks control of S.C. clinics



While trying to change the way Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics operate, MCG Health Inc. also is interested in reaching across the Savannah River to three struggling South Carolina hospitals.

MCG Health, reorganized last year to run the medical college's clinical services and free up the hospital and clinics from burdensome state restrictions, also may be hiring an Atlanta company to review salary and benefits to make wages more competitive while possibly trimming some benefits and costs.

The board of MCG Health met Wednesday to give Chief Executive Officer Don Snell the go-ahead to pitch a management proposal to a group representing hospitals in South Carolina's Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties. Those counties had at one time considered building a single regional hospital to serve all three but that idea isn't going anywhere in the near future, Mr. Snell said.

MCG would propose a five-year management contract to run all three as a single unit, provide help with specialty services like urology and orthopedics as well as help in attracting primary care doctors, Mr. Snell said.

The benefit for MCG would be gaining access to referrals for more specialized care with little financial risk, Mr. Snell said. Currently, some area patients go to University Hospital in Augusta or Columbia or Charleston, S.C., for specialty care.

Looking at the circle of counties around MCG from which the hospital and clinics draw patients, "Allendale and Bamberg and Barnwell are the piece of the pie that's missing," Mr. Snell said.

Jointly managing could save more than $600,000 a year, and being able to draw on the large purchasing group MCG uses should save even more, Mr. Snell said.

Already shouldering an indigent care burden of $65 million a year, MCG President Francis J. Tedesco sought assurances from Mr. Snell that "we're assuming no responsibility for providing care for their indigents." Mr. Snell said most go to Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and would continue to do so.

The board is expected in October to vote on a strategic plan for MCG Health to assume control of the hospital and clinics. But Mr. Snell asked to hire Watson Wyatt and Co. to do a salary, benefits and performance evaluation package for $369,000 to $410,000. Board member Dr. Julius Scott asked whether Mr. Snell would seek competitive bids from two other companies, and Mr. Snell agreed -- though he felt the fee was surprisingly low.

Employees hired after MCG Health takes over will come in under the new salary and benefits, but current employees can choose to remain employees of MCG and stay in the Teachers Retirement System. It would have been politically disastrous to try and force people out of the state system and into the new, Mr. Snell said.

REACH

Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.