Officials with the hospital's operating company, MCG Health Inc., celebrated Wednesday after being named one of the 100 Top Hospitals by Thomson Healthcare, formerly called Solucient.
In a meeting of its executive committee, MCG Health board members also approved moving forward on a $135 million bond issue that will help fund $175 million in capital projects.
The health system also made the 100 Top Hospitals list in 2002. It is one of only two in Georgia to make the list this year. The ranking, based on publicly available data, is culled from roughly 3,000 hospitals this year, said Jean Chenoweth, the senior vice president for Thomson and the 100 Top programs.
The company studied data in clinical areas for things such as the rate of complications patients developed and how often patients received the standard of care in key areas. It also looked at financial performance in areas such as profitability and cash-to-debt ratio.
"The things that I've always liked about this designation is it's a balanced scorecard approach," said MCG Health CEO Don Snell.
The company looks only at the data, and hospitals can't buy their way in by purchasing other services from the company, Ms. Chenoweth said.
"We don't know (that) when we run the data," she said. "We're only using data; we don't go by reputation."
For that reason, "we feel pretty comfortable and it is really hard to win this award," Ms. Chenoweth said. In fact, only about one-third stay on the list from one year to the next.
It's even harder, considering the financial factors, for public hospitals like MCG that provide a heavy load of indigent care, Mr. Snell said.
"It makes it horribly difficult, particularly in the last few years," he said, when the health system's indigent care supplemental payments have been cut from $28 million to an expected $12 million this year. Meanwhile, the hospital is on track to provide about $54 million in indigent care to the uninsured this year, which translates to about $27 million in actual costs, he said.
While MCG Health is getting the award, it is also a distinction for Augusta, Ms. Chenoweth said.
"The community is always the real winner when you have a hospital that is setting the national benchmarks for performance because that touches every single person who lives there," she said.
The other Georgia hospital on the list is Union General Hospital in Blairsville, in the Small Community Hospitals category. MCG is in the Major Teaching Hospitals category.
In other business, the health system board approved a complicated bond issue that includes an interest rate swap that will leave it with an interest rate of 3.8 percent. The health system will end up with monthly debt service of about $355,000, which tops out at $666,000 in 2024, Mr. Snell said. But though he had considered scaling it back when struggling to make budget earlier this year, it made more sense to go ahead with the larger project, he said.
"All of those projects were critical," Mr. Snell said. "It's a risk, but we have seen improvements in the (financial) performance."