SYLVANIA - Ownership of the Jenkins County Hospital is anticipated to officially transfer hands at the beginning of October, with Screven County Hospital following suit mid-December, after purchases for both by the Community Hospital Management Company, LP of Savannah are completed later this year.
As a group of physicians operating an orthopedic practice for more than nine years, the Community Hospital Management CEO Michael Kleinpeter said they have been able to accommodate outpatient business such as imaging, therapy, and ambulatory surgery, yet never have had the ability to do anything inpatient.
"Venturing into the hospital business has helped us complete our orthopedic line of service," he said.
Kleinpeter, CEO of the Southeastern Orthopedic Center and of the hospital purchasing company, both Savannah-based, said that all hospital purchases from a public entity, the Hospital Authority in this case, to a private entity, are required by law to undergo a 90-day state Attorney General review. After those hearings, held at respective hospitals, the AG has 30 days to render a decision, he said.
The hearing for the Jenkins hospital was held on September 1, Kleinpeter said, and went very well, as is anticipated for the Screven hospital hearing scheduled for November 9.
In a capacity where primary care physicians can be employed and the business can reach beyond the hospitals themselves, Kleinpeter said the purchases are expected to help grow their orthopedic market.
The orthopedic group has already seen tremendous growth after their purchase of the Tattnall hospital in December 2008.
Southeastern Orthopedic Center consists of 30 orthopedic and pain management physicians. And while the center and the hospital management group are two separate companies with two separate owners, they move in sync, he said. They have a common CEO, CFO, and Physician Board for example.
The Screven and Jenkins hospitals will initially have two position owners, Kleinpeter and Dr. John George, the managing partner of the orthopedic group. As is the case in the Tattnall hospital, however, that ownership will transition into about 20 physician owners, made up of mostly orthopedic surgeons.
At the Tattnall hospital, the group has concentrated much of their orthopedic efforts since it was already a prime location among many of their existing orthopedic patients, he said. The Screven and Jenkins hospitals, Kleinpeter said, will not have as heavy an orthopedic concentration, however.
From a community standpoint, he said patients will be offered increased services that were previously unattainable at the local hospitals. Many were going to Augusta and Savannah to receive certain treatments, he said, but because of an increase in primary care physicians and an increase in specialized services, they will now be able to receive some of those services locally.
Right now the hospitals are not doing much more than a few endoscopic procedures, some general surgery and some ophthalmology surgery, Kleinpeter said.
"We will be able to add some orthopedic, ENT, GYN, and more general surgeries," he said," along with additional endoscopic and interventional pain management procedures."
Over time, as the hospitals become more profitable, he said they plan to also make some aesthetic improvements to the hospitals themselves and continue to increase quality of care.
"Financially, the purchases help not only us, but also greatly help the hospitals in what we call our home-based areas," he said.
For example, Kleinpeter said the Savannah hospitals have been helped tremendously by what the group is calling their "outreach program" by enlarging their market without incurring any cost to the hospitals.
"Much can be said, in a similar fashion," Kleinpeter said, "with East Georgia Regional Hospital in Statesboro."
The orthopedic surgeons who are based there, who live there and see patients there, he said will go up to 60 miles outside of Statesboro to see patients. While some of these patients will be operated on in Screven and Jenkins, the majority of them will be operated on in Statesboro, he said.
"We look at it as a strategy to help us grow our orthopedic market beyond Statesboro," he said, "but then East Georgia Regional benefits in the process. We view our development as a partnership with other hospitals and continue to find mutually beneficial relationships through increased orthopedic surgery."
He said it is a kind of good-will gesture to them.
In addition, after 10 years for each, he said that Jenkins and Screven Counties will no longer have to subsidize the respective hospitals for indigent care.
As the group currently functions under a consulting agreement with the hospitals until the deals are closed, they can make minor changes and continue to familiarize themselves with operations and things they may want to change. A hospital administrator, Brad Trower, has already been hired, who will oversee both hospitals and split his time between Jenkins and Screven. Along with the recent employment of a general surgeon and 2 interventional pain management physicians, Kleinpeter anticipates general employment in the hospitals also to increase significantly in the next couple of years.
"Over time, we have plans to make both hospitals look good, function well, and be something that the whole community can be proud of," Kleinpeter said.