The Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County discussed its upcoming fiscal year budget and other issues at a meeting Wednesday.

Greg Hembree, chief financial officer at South Georgia Medical Center, said the hospital has been operating on a slim margin this year, around 3 percent, which is better than the break-even margin last year.

Hembree said a number of factors, including the salary freeze and the retirement freeze, contributed to the improved financial status of the hospital.

The finance committee is preparing its budget for the next fiscal year now, and Hembree said once details about capital and operations expenditures are worked through, the budget will be presented to the authority for approval.

Hembree said a $50,000 contribution to assist the Lowndes County Partnership for Health has already been approved.

Chief Executive Officer James McGahee said the partnership is not under the hospital, but because they perform so many services for the community, it’s important for SGMC to assist them with their funding.

Hembree also said the new Imaging Center will be under construction soon. The $3 million construction contract was awarded to Cauthan, a local contractor. The center will be located in the medical office building and is scheduled to open in January.

Human Resource Director Charles Eidson also presented the month’s Hero Award to Shirley Moore Garland, a nurse who works “on the front lines every day in service to our patients.”

At the end of the meeting, McGahee congratulated authority Chairman Bill Cowart on his promotion to president of First State Bank in Valdosta.

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