In August, South Georgia Medical Center will officially acquire Smith Northview Hospital, leaving a number of issues that have to be decided quickly in order to make the transition a smooth one.

The Hospital Authority called a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the transition with members of the medical staff, focusing on amending SGMC’s bylaws to allow a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) the ability to receive privileges equivalent to a Doctor of Medicine (MD).

SGMC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kim Megow explained the history of the two medical fields and how the disciplines have become virtually indistinguishable in recent years due to similarities in training and education.

“Over the last 15 years, the two have become more and more alike,” she said.

Members of the medical staff in attendance began questioning the proposed bylaw changes and asked if the Authority is only going to change one or more, and several expressed the desire to form a committee to research the issue.

Authority member Dr. Lynne Feldman said, at this time, the board is only looking at this one issue, as it has to be decided, and asked how long it would take a committee to research the bylaws and make a recommendation.

“The last time we did this, it took about five years,” said Dr. James Sinnott, to which Feldman replied, “We can’t wait that long. We have one month.”

The discussion then turned to other issues concerning having all physicians at Smith Northview credentialed to work at SGMC.

“We have requirements that they don’t have,” said Sinnott.

Authority Chairman Bill Cowart said, “The staff there will be grandfathered in to work for SGMC, but only on that campus. They will not automatically be given credentials here.”

Authority Attorney Walter H. New said, “They will have to have some privileges here, but they will not have all privileges. Those decisions still have to be made by the peer review committee.”

New reminded the physicians that more than half of the medical staff at SGMC are also credentialed at Smith Northview.

Dr. Greg Beale and Dr. Pat Pennington questioned the differences between the standards of care between the two facilities, saying they did not want SGMC’s standards to be lowered to match Smith Northview’s standards.

The physicians were assured that all patient care committees and quality controls from SGMC will apply at Smith following the acquisition.

“We have no intention of lowering standards of care, but it may take a while to get them where we want them to be,” Feldman said.

Sinnott asked if a medical committee could begin assisting the Authority in the due diligence process and if they would also be able to look through their records to ensure a smoother transition.

New replied that, as long as the physicians sign the same confidentiality agreement that all others in the due diligence process have, the Authority would welcome their input and assistance.

When asked what plans SGMC has for Smith’s future, several Authority members spoke up to say there are no plans to close Smith Northview.

“The name will be the same and the staff will be the same until we can figure out what’s in everyone’s best interests to do at that facility, but for now, there will be no change, and it definitely will not be shut down,” New said.

Feldman added that there are things which the Authority has to do and do quickly so that both hospitals can work together cohesively once the sale is complete.

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