The Pulse

Atlanta’s Piedmont system landing new hospital

Just two days after WellStar announced plans to add another hospital, a second metro Atlanta health system says it’s making a similar deal.

Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare said Thursday that it plans to bring Newton Medical Center in Covington into its group of hospitals.

Newton Medical Center

Newton Medical Center

The deal will involve a long-term lease of assets from the Newton County Hospital Authority, and when the agreement takes effect, Newton Medical will become a subsidiary of Piedmont, officials said.

The announcement follows Tuesday’s news that Marietta-based WellStar Health System aims to take West Georgia Health in LaGrange into its fold. West Georgia Medical Center would become the sixth hospital in the nonprofit WellStar system, though it’s the first one not in Atlanta’s suburbs.

The moves continue the rapid consolidation among hospitals in Georgia and nationally, as they face dramatic changes in the way they’re paid for services. Part of that stems from provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  full story

Smoking rate declining in Georgia, says CDC

Georgia’s smoking rate is showing a steady decline, a new CDC report said Thursday.

Cigarette BurningThe state’s rate of adult cigarette smoking fell from 21.2 percent in 2011 to 20.4 in 2012, then fell to 18.8 percent in 2013.

Georgia’s smoking percentage is lower than other Southern states except for Florida, at 16.8 percent, and Texas, at 15.9 percent.

Overall, 26 states had a drop in cigarette smoking prevalence over that period, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s use of smokeless tobacco increased from 4.4 percent in 2011 to 5 percent two years later, but that change was too slight to be statistically significant.

While Georgia’s smoking rate decreased, an American Lung Association official said Thursday that the news was not altogether comforting. full story

Commentary: Where doctors find wisdom

Dr. Scott A. Kelly

Dr. Scott A. Kelly

Atlanta physician Dr. Scott A. Kelly says he has learned plenty from his patients.

Listening to people he has treated has made him a better doctor, Kelly says.

He has written a book about being taught such lessons from patients, titled “What I’ve Learned from You.”

In a new GHN Commentary, Kelly adds that part of  his responsibility as a physician is “to bring compassion back to the doctor-patient relationship.”

Here’s a link to Kelly’s Commentary.


Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

WellStar expanding reach in LaGrange hospital deal

Marietta-based WellStar is planning to add another hospital system to its fold, one that’s outside its current geographical sweet spot.

West Georgia Health in LaGrange announced Tuesday that it has signed a letter of intent to join WellStar Health System, which dominates the northwest Atlanta suburbs.

West Georgia Health in LaGrange

West Georgia Health in LaGrange

The CEO of West Georgia, Jerry Fulks, cited the changes rampant in health care payments — many of which were ignited by the Affordable Care Act — for his system’s yearlong pursuit of a partner.

West Georgia Medical Center would become the sixth hospital in the nonprofit WellStar system, though it’s the first one that’s not in Atlanta’s suburbs.

Meanwhile, WellStar is still working on a potential blockbuster merger with Emory Healthcare in metro Atlanta.

Fulks said Tuesday that West Georgia Health, the parent of the medical center, was seeking a partner with at least $1 billion in revenues, which WellStar surpasses. “We wanted an organization that’s focused on physicians and employees,’’ Fulks added.   full story

Georgia nursing homes fairly low in quality report

Nearly half of Georgia nursing homes have relatively low ratings  — either 1 or 2 stars out of a possible 5, according to a report analyzing quality scores for these facilities nationally.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, using the quality scores from the “Nursing Home Compare’’ website of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, found that Texas has the worst record. Among Texas nursing homes, 51 percent received a 1 or 2 rating.

nhomesThe Lone Star State’s ratings were followed by Louisiana, with 49 percent of nursing homes with a 1 or 2, and then Georgia, Oklahoma and West Virginia at 46 percent, said the report, released last week.

The study found that nationally, 36 percent of nursing homes certified by Medicare or Medicaid have overall ratings of 1 or 2 stars.

A larger share of nursing homes — 45 percent — have overall ratings of 4 or 5 stars. Georgia’s percentage of 4 or 5 star facilities, however, is 32 percent.

“Once again Georgia is at the bottom of the barrel on quality, but there is no simple solution,’’ said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, when asked Monday by GHN to comment on the report. full story

Consumer Corner

Eating less salt can save millions

Georgians could save more than $600 million a year in health care costs by eating less sodium.

Around the State

Columbus: Camp Abilities

A camp at Columbus State allows visually impaired or blind children to feel empowered, learn new sports they weren’t aware of and leave with increased self-esteem.

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Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Water safety campaign

Georgia officials have created “SPLASH,” an all-encompassing water safety campaign to encourage Georgians to follow six techniques when enjoying activities in the water.

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Albany Herald

Vision loss in the South

A new report found the South was home to three-quarters of the U.S. counties with the highest prevalence of severe vision loss.

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Associated Press

Gwinnett: Neglect charges

The operators of an unlicensed personal care home for the elderly are facing several charges of neglect.

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Gwinnett Daily Post

Conyers: Hike in premiums

Conyers city employees will see an increase in the health insurance premium on their paychecks beginning in July.

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Rockdale Citizen


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