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Plan for new trauma center not welcomed by all

Hospital chain HCA’s push to have its Augusta hospital designated as a trauma center has unsettled leaders in the state’s hospital industry.

A trauma center is a medical facility that’s specially equipped and staffed to treat seriously injured people. Georgia authorizes four levels of such centers, depending on their capabilities.

The critics of the HCA effort point to the trauma center growth in the Florida market. Such centers in the Sunshine State are charging a “response fee” – essentially an entry fee into the hospital – for each trauma case that averages more than $10,000 per patient, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation in March.

Doctors Hospital


HCA’s Doctors Hospital said through a spokesman that if it receives trauma center status, it plans to set its trauma activation fee at about $9,900 for each such case at the Augusta facility. The HCA initiative in Georgia was first reported by Tom Corwin of the Augusta Chronicle.

The two current trauma centers in Augusta, Georgia Regents Medical Center and Trinity Hospital, said they charge activation fees of $1,949 and zero, respectively, for a comparable Level III trauma patient, the Chronicle reported.

Nashville-based HCA’s bid for trauma designation has drawn strong opposition from the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, an organization of nonprofit hospitals. full story

Commentary: Tort reform can save rural hospitals

Medical malpractice reform got a big push prior to the 2014 Georgia General Assembly session, but a sweeping bill never made it out of a Senate committee.

iStock_000023217379LargeSupporters of tort reform vow to bring the proposal back again next year.

They note that four rural hospitals have closed in the past two years, and argue that savings from malpractice reform could prop up many of Georgia’s ailing rural facilities.

Under the legislation, “no doctor or hospital would ever be sued again,’’ Wayne Oliver, executive director of the group Patients for Fair Compensation, says in a new GHN Commentary.

The new patient compensation model, if enacted, “could save $6.9 billion over the next decade,’’ Oliver writes. “That state revenue could be reinvested in rural hospitals that are barely surviving.”

Here is a link to Oliver’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

Experts on a roll … to help rural doctors

“Meaningful use.”

It’s another confounding term in the often opaque lexicon of health care. But it represents a concept that is important for health care providers’ bottom lines.

The basic idea is that Medicare and Medicaid will pay incentives for hospitals and doctors to demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) to improve patient care.

And to help rural doctors get up to speed with education and technical assistance on meaningful use, a two-day bus tour swept through central and eastern Georgia last week.

Technical assistance is given at Taylor Regional Medical Center.

Technical assistance is given at Taylor Regional Medical Center.

Experts on board the bus came from GA-HITEC at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; the state Department of Community Health; HP Medicaid; the Georgia Health Information Network; the Medical Association of Georgia; and HomeTown Health. They visited Thomaston, Hawkinsville, Eastman, Fitzgerald, Baxley, Springfield and Swainsboro to provide hands-on help to physicians and others.

“There have not been many resources out in rural areas,’’ Kathy Whitmire of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in the state, told GHN. She said the experts consulted with physician practices representing more than 120 eligible doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. full story

Building Georgia’s primary care workforce

The state’s pipeline for new physicians is getting wider.

Gwinnett Medical Center has joined a phalanx of hospitals developing residency programs in primary care – an effort that could help ease Georgia’s physician shortage.

The Lawrenceville-based health system launched its new family medicine residency program last week, the first physician training offered there in the organization’s history.

One of the five medical graduates starting the three-year family medicine residency is Barbara “Joy” Jones of Warner Robins. She graduated from the Georgia campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, in the Gwinnett County town of Suwanee.

Gwinnett Medical's five new family medicine residents include Barbara "Joy'' Jones (center)

Gwinnett Medical’s five new family medicine residents include Barbara “Joy” Jones (center)


Jones picked the Gwinnett Medical residency program, in part, because she “was already familiar with the area.’’

The newness of the program also attracted Jones – “the chance to be a trailblazer.”

Other Georgia hospitals starting or planning new residency programs include hospitals in Athens, Rome, Carrollton and Marietta, as well as a South Georgia consortium, according to Cherri Tucker, executive director of the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce.

The state’s deficit in primary care doctors is propelling the changes, Tucker says. full story

Looking for answers to the rural health care crisis

Four hospitals have closed in the past two years. Many areas can’t attract doctors, or have trouble keeping the ones they have. Some counties are without a hospital or other critical health services.

Rep. Terry England

Rep. Terry England

Those rural health care problems in Georgia were among the issues discussed at the initial meeting Monday of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, recently appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The panel was created to identify the needs of rural facilities and offer potential solutions. Members include hospital leaders, physicians and state lawmakers.

“The task is not going to be an easy one,’’ said state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), a panel member who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. “We’re open to a lot of different ideas and solutions.”

Possible remedies include a new initiative for a financially troubled hospital to downsize into a freestanding rural emergency department.

One strategy that went without much discussion was expanding the state’s Medicaid program. full story

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