Navicent Health, Houston Healthcare exploring partnership

Houston Medical Center on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins.
Houston Medical Center on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins. bcabell@macon.com

Navicent Health and Houston Healthcare officials are exploring a potential partnership that could be groundbreaking for the region.

Details of how the two medical care companies join forces will be worked out over the next few months, but officials say it will be a “strategic combination” and not a merger.

Based in Macon-Bibb County, Navicent Health is the region’s largest operator of medical facilities. The company has expanded its scope over the last year with the acquisition of the hospital in Baldwin County and taking over management of the Monroe County hospital.

Navicent’s downtown Macon campus is also the site of a new children’s hospital that is under construction.

Houston Healthcare includes two acute care medical facilities with a total of 282 beds in Perry and Warner Robins.

The goal is to create a new health system that improves the level of services and keeps “health care being local without our patients having to go somewhere else for care,” Navicent President and CEO Ninfa Saunders said Thursday. “Having a high performance organization that is supported by a group of employees that are vibrant and energized because we are doing exactly what we started out to do. ... The synergy between the two organization will get us to a better place.”

The combination would further collaboration efforts between Navicent and Houston Healthcare over the last handful of years. The partnership would be a significant moment in Middle Georgia for two entities of their size joining forces, executives with the two facilities said.

“We do feel pursuing this agreement ... will allow us to improve the access of quality of care and value for our communities, for our employees, for our patients and physicians,” said Charles Briscoe, the chief operating officer and vice president of Houston Healthcare.

For years, the two companies were at odds, which sometimes played out in public.

Saunders said after coming on board with Navicent in 2012, she reached out to Houston Healthcare leaders. Saunders said she had heard many of the “tribal war stories” between the two sides, but she found an atmosphere that was ripe for working together.

The two are now part of Stratus Healthcare, a collaborative partnership of 14 hospitals in the region.

“There was really a welcoming gesture,” Saunders said. “To say that has always been the way for the last five years I’ve been here is an understatement. I feel like we are stronger and better together. We’ve very transparent with each other.”

And the next step will mean working through logistics of the potential partnership.

“We’ve had quite a successful growth curve in Houston County over the years, both as a community and as a hospital,” Briscoe said. “We’ve made significant capital investments in Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital.”

“One of the things that we see as the success in the future will be both Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital thriving and growing based upon whatever strategies ... we may come up with in this discussion.”

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph