The hospital combination game has taken a second turn in less than a week, this time involving two Middle Georgia systems.
Navicent Health, based in Macon, said Thursday that it’s exploring a partnership with Houston Healthcare in Warner Robins.
The news from Middle Georgia follows an announcement Tuesday in metro Atlanta that Emory Healthcare and DeKalb Medical have started talks about a partnership. If that deal comes to a fruition, DeKalb Medical would become part of Emory.
The Macon system includes The Medical Center, Navicent Health; Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health; Navicent Health Baldwin in Milledgeville, which was recently acquired; and Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health.
Houston Healthcare includes Houston (County) Medical Center in Warner Robins and Perry Hospital in Perry.
A union would create a stronger system in Middle Georgia.
Megan Allen, a Navicent spokeswoman, said Thursday that “both organizations are excited about the possibility of creating a health care system in Middle Georgia that will bring together an unparalleled collection of advanced health care delivery resources to better serve the region.“
“We are looking forward to working together to take advantage of a wide range of synergies that will enhance access, improve quality and accelerate the achievement of operational efficiencies,’’ Allen said. “We share a common culture, vision and values and a successful history of collaborating together and as a part of the Stratus Healthcare network. Both organizations will spend the upcoming months working through the details of a potential combination.“
The partnership, if consummated, would continue the consolidation that has shaken up the hospital industry across the state. Recent partnerships or acquisitions completed or pending include those between Piedmont Healthcare and Columbus Regional Health; Northside Hospital and Gwinnett Health System; and HCA and Memorial Health in Savannah.
A primary goal of these combinations is to increase hospital systems’ clout in negotiating for better pay rates with health insurers. Another objective includes saving on the cost of supplies and other aspects of hospital operations. Advocates of mergers say they ultimately bring down health care costs, but some experts have challenged that notion.
Chris Kane, a consultant with Progressive Healthcare, said Thursday that the fact that Navicent and Houston are members of Stratus Healthcare, an alliance of hospitals and physicians, “will facilitate the development of a more formal partnership. Trust between the parties is the best predictor of success when exploring combinations.”
Unlike metro Atlanta, health systems in Middle Georgia cannot rely on population increases to drive growth, Kane said. “The proximity of these two systems affords knowledge of the physician communities and referral patterns.’’