Fictions persist about local health provider

I'm amazed that people continue to spread myths about MCG Health Inc. After turning one of the nation's worst performers into one of the country's best, we still find ourselves having to prevent revisionist history.

The vision for MCG Health originated with the former president of the Medical College of Georgia, and was approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, despite opposition from former state Sen. Charles Walker, and former Reps. Benjamin Allen and Robin Williams, among others. And, by the way, despite claims to the contrary, there is one captain of this ship -- the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

OUR RESTRUCTURING was similar to academic medical center spinoffs in Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and other states. MCG Health gives the hospitals and clinics the ability to generate an operating margin; hold reserves; enter into multiple-year contracts; form joint ventures; locally purchase goods and services; and gain access to capital -- all of the flexibility needed for growth and expansion.

In Fiscal Year 1999, the hospitals and clinics lost $10 million, and were about to lose another $25 million by the end of FY 2000. The organization was in a five-year death spiral in all key measures -- patient satisfaction, patient volume, cost and accounts receivable. Salaries hadn't increased in three years. Eighty-five percent of the employees were paid below the market averages for their positions. Over the past seven years, we have remedied all of these deficiencies.

I'M PUZZLED by the notion that this restructuring has weakened the medical college. On the contrary, we have provided $71 million to the medical college for academic development and research, $294 million for graduate medical education and faculty support, $150 million in capital improvements and $50 million for a state-of-the-art management/clinical information system, thanks to the financial strength of our health system. Interestingly, Atlanta's Grady Health System is now proposing a restructuring similar to ours.

I'm equally puzzled by the notion that this restructuring has made the medical college vulnerable to attack. On the contrary, a strong academic medical center virtually guarantees that the medical college will remain intact in Augusta. When the health system was at its weakest in 1999, there was talk of consolidating the medical college into the University of Georgia. Once MCG Health stabilized the clinical delivery system, this talk disappeared.

I hope that these facts put to rest some of the inaccuracies about MCG Health continuing to spread throughout the community.

(The writer is president and chief executive officer of MCG Health Inc.)

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