Valdosta Daily Times

February 20, 2014

SGMC not for sale

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — South Georgia Medical Center and its affiliates are community hospitals providing medical care to the region. It costs them millions of dollars each month to care for patients who are indigent, have catastrophic illnesses, or are charity cases. SGMC is governed by state law, through a Hospital Authority appointed by the city and county.

And SGMC is not for sale. The hospital system has not been approached by a buyer, has had no conversation with a buyer, has no plans to sell, and legally cannot sell even if the Authority wanted to.

That’s right — the hospital cannot be sold unless Lowndes County decides to sell it. With so many issues today, from anti-trust laws that have affected one hospital in the region and a group of physicians in Valdosta, to the new health-care laws and government-compliance rules, to the issues of providing non-reimbursed care due to the Georgia Legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid, buying or selling a medical facility isn’t as simple as some apparently think. But that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill.

The rumors of SGMC’s demise, purchase, issues, problems, and sale have gotten out of hand. So out of hand that the CEO felt compelled to address them during the Hospital Authority’s monthly meeting Wednesday.

The origin of the rumors is no mystery, and includes a small and elite group of individuals with personal issues and vendettas. The Times has spent countless hours investigating many of the so-called abuses at SGMC to find that nearly all are 100 percent false and others have only enough of a glimmer of truth to add fuel to the rumor mill. However, nothing found so far is even remotely illegal, unethical, unfair, or outrageous.  

What is unfair is that 3,000 employees are being targeted by these gossip mongers who want nothing more than to fan the flames of discontent. What is unfair is that the current administration is having to clean up the debris left from years of mismanagement, including questionable financial decisions, uncollected debts, overstated profits and inflated margins.

Those who point at the Hospital Authority need to be reminded that the only control they have is over the CEO. They can give direction and set policy but have no authority to ensure they are carried out. They only have access to the financial records they are presented. As with any authority or board, they are strictly prohibited from involvement in daily operations, personnel issues and conflict resolution.

The bottom line is that the mission of the hospital is to provide quality care to the communities they serve; to ensure that all who come through their doors are treated without regard for their ability to pay; and to be fiscally and financially responsible. Anyone trying to undermine this mission should be ashamed. The only way to stop the rumors is to stop repeating them.