Georgia's AU Health System signs letter of intent to join Wellstar Health System

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 30, 2022
Business Affairs
Georgia's Augusta University Health System has signed a letter of intent to join Wellstar Health System. (Photo courtesy of Augusta University Health System)
Augusta University Health System in Georgia is set to merge with Wellstar Health System, expanding the Medical College of Georgia's (MCG) presence and improve access to care for Georgians statewide.

The two signed a letter of intent for the deal, which they are calling a partnership that will "expand Augusta University’s educational and research missions and allow Wellstar Health System to create a broader affiliation with the university’s Medical College of Georgia,” said the university in an announcement.

The three strategic initiatives of the partnership are:

  • Expanding digital health offerings for more convenient access to care and more individualized care regardless of location.
  • Growing the pipeline of physicians and other providers in Georgia by increasing the number of students who train and conduct research through MCG.
  • Developing new treatments, innovative care offerings and scalable care models to optimize patient health and well-being.

Both health systems plan to adopt a successful model for bringing together community health systems and academic medical centers such as MCG and its teaching hospitals. They also plan to train more medical students in primary care services facilitated by family medicine physicians, general pediatricians and other specialists, especially in underserved areas, to fill statewide physician shortages.

The AU Health System comprises the 478-bed Augusta University Medical Center, the 154-bed Children's Hospital of Georgia, the Georgia Cancer Center and Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospitals. It also is planning a 100-bed hospital in Grovetown, in Augusta’s Columbia County, reports The News & Observer.

If successful, the merger would hand Wellstar control over these hospitals, which are affiliated with the only public medical school in the state. WellStar currently has nine hospitals, having recently closed its Atlanta Medical Center, leaving Atlanta with one less Level 1 trauma center.

AU has been searching for a partner since 2019, according to WRDW-TV.

The deal will potentially help fund the new Columbia County hospital as well as upgrades in other AU Health System facilities. A new regional teaching campus would also be set up for MCG at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, making it one of the largest public medical schools in the country.

“By bringing Augusta University Health System together with Wellstar Health System and leveraging our respective strengths, we would improve the health of the community, address social determinants of health and expand access to quality care for all Georgians,” said Candice Saunders, FACHE, president and chief executive officer of Wellstar Health System.

A review by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is required, as is one by the Federal Trade Commission. The deal is subject to a public hearing, and accrediting agencies would need to approve MCG’s expansion.

Financial details were not disclosed.

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