Originally created 01/05/06

Public can give views on sale



The public will get a chance to be heard on the proposed sale of St. Joseph Hospital to a Florida company.

A public hearing will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Sister Mary Louise Conference Room at the hospital. Health Management Associates Inc., based in Naples, announced last month that it had reached an agreement on the sale with St. Joseph's parent company, Ascension Health of St. Louis.

The sale is subject to the approval of the Georgia attorney general's office, which is reviewing it, HMA said in a statement on its Web site. HMA did not return calls seeking comment.

Ascension said last June that it was exploring whether to sell or close St. Joseph, which had struggled financially for years. The two sides began exclusive negotiations in October and last month submitted paperwork on the sale to the attorney general's office.

Because the hospital is a nonprofit, state law requires the office to review the sale as part of its role as "guardians of the public trust and public assets," said spokesman Russ Willard.

"Our office reviews it to make sure that there is adequate value being given to the non-profit" through the sale, he said.

Hospital officials hope to finalize the sale by March 1. If approved, HMA would operate 61 hospitals in 16 states, the company said.

It would be the fourth HMA hospital in Georgia after the company announced Tuesday it had finished the acquisition of Barrow Community Hospital in Winder. The company also operates East Georgia Regional Center in Statesboro and Walton Regional Medical Center in Monroe.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

A public hearing on the sale of St. Joseph Hospital to Health Management Associates of Naples, Fla., will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Sister Mary Louise Conference Room at the hospital.