Medical Center, Putnam General announce partnership

mstucka@macon.comJuly 7, 2014 

A new partnership could put Putnam General Hospital into the baby business. The same alliance -- announced Monday with The Medical Center of Central Georgia -- also could bring more senior-focused care to the retirees around Eatonton.

Another partnership with a Milledgeville hospital was announced last week.

“We want to keep as much health care local as we can and not have patients leaving our community to go to another facility, just because we don’t have the services,” said Alan Horton, CEO of the 25-bed Putnam General Hospital.

The Eatonton hospital may shift some of its contracted services to the Medical Center and its parent organization, Central Georgia Health System. The Macon-based health care organizations could help not only with clinical services but also with billing, contracting, supply purchases and other business operations.

Ninfa Saunders, president and CEO of the Medical Center, said the partnership will likely close in 30 to 60 days.

Macon workers already are evaluating opportunities in Putnam County, which has many retirees around its lakes as well as a young population. The partnership could mean normal baby deliveries are handled in Putnam County, while high-risk babies come to Macon, she said.

But the Medical Center could help provide more access to specialists and more continuity of care.

“We’ll start looking at the needs of the community. We’ll start to grow programs,” Saunders said.

The Macon organizations also may put their own money into Putnam General.

“We will not finance bricks and mortar, but we will co-invest with another organization in the development of clinical programs,” she said.

Saunders helped form what she calls a loose affiliation through the 29-hospital Stratus Healthcare. But the Eatonton collaboration is a much stronger partnership, and Macon also has strong partnerships with the hospitals in Peach County and in Milledgeville.

Saunders acknowledged some of the effort is “like an oxymoron: competitive but collaborative.” She said she doesn’t anticipate other partnership announcements soon, but Stratus Healthcare is getting hospital chiefs to know each other better. She expects the marketplace will experience more hospital consolidations and more hospital closings.

Horton said many rural hospitals are struggling and are likely looking for a larger partner. The deal gives Putnam General Hospital more access to specialities, which will let it do more. It’s not clear yet exactly what new services will be offered.

“It’ll depend on what kind of specialty physicians we can recruit to our area,” Horton said. “We’ll put a clinical team in place to start looking at those opportunities for us.”

To contact Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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