BRUNSWICK | Glynn County commissioners said Tuesday they are worried that a proposed restructuring of the Southeast Georgia Health System could funnel money out of the county and weaken or even eventually eliminate local control of the hospital.
“The mind-set of most people is that it’s our hospital and we don’t want that to go away,” Commission Chairman Michael Browning said during a called meeting Tuesday. “How do we make sure that we don’t wake up one day and the good thing that we have here is gone?”
The nonprofit hospital currently is governed by the Glynn-Brunswick Hospital Authority, a panel of nine members nominated by the city and county commissions. Under the restructuring proposed by hospital management, a private nonprofit, Southeast Georgia Health System Inc., would be formed and governed by a separate authority consisting of nine to 14 members. The new authority would run the hospital, with the existing one acting primarily as a landlord and meeting only a couple of times a year, Southeast Georgia Health System attorney Christy Jordan said.
Just three of members of the new authority would be appointed by the city and county, with the others appointed by members of the new authority, and that could water down local control, Commissioner Dale Provenzano said.
“I suggest as it stands now 33 percent of the board would be people we can touch and feel who we have appointed,” he said. If the board goes up to 14 members, local control would be diminished, he added.
“I suggest we don’t go to 14,” he said.
Southeast Georgia Health System, which operates hospitals and other health care facilities in Glynn and Camden counties, is the largest hospital in the state that has not restructured. Restructuring would make it more competitive in a rapidly changing health-care market by eliminating some of the red tape involved in doing business outside the county, its president and CEO Gary Colberg said.
The measure would allow the system to more easily affiliate with larger hospitals or take over the administration of smaller ones, he said.
Commissioner Richard Strickland said that taking over another hospital might not work out to be such a good deal.
“Somewhere down the road, y’all will look at merging or affiliating with another hospital,” he said. “If that hospital is not making money, what’s to keep them from robbing our system to make themselves solvent?”
Colberg said good management would prevent such a scenario from arising.
County Attorney Aaron Mumford assured the commission that their concerns would be adequately addressed in the new deed and Coberg said that the intention is to keep control of the hospital local.
“But we have to be sustainable,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose business to other areas.”
Among the items the city and county must consider are a change in the deed to hospital property. Under the current deed, the property would revert to the control of Brunswick and Glynn County should the hospital ever change hands.
The creation of the private nonprofit to operate the hospital could be interpreted as a change of hands so the deed should be reworded to account for that, officials said.
Mumford said he will present the restructuring documents to the commission soon for approval. It also must be approved by the City Commission, which deferred action on it during its regular meeting last week.