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Friday, April 5, 2013 - 8:00am

Hospitals See Partnerships As Future

A struggling South Georgia hospital is partnering with Savannah's Memorial University Medical Center to keep its doors open.

Evans Memorial in Claxton is like many rural hospitals -- losing money and expecting more losses.

Officials at Evans and Memorial say their partnership could be a model for other struggling hospitals.

Evans CEO Martha Tatum says she doesn't want her community to end up like others where hospitals have shut down.

"Presently, right now, we have a loss of $300,000 after five months," Tatum says. "And in order to survive, we're going to need to be able to align ourselves with a larger facility. And we recognize that need and we felt like now was the time to do that."

The smaller Claxton facility won't be giving up autonomy but will rely on the Savannah health giant for costly activities such as recruiting doctors and servicing equipment.

"We face the same challenges that the large facilities face," Tatum says. "We just don't have the many extra hands to help us face those challenges."

Memorial CEO Maggie Gill says the partnership is modeled after the Savannah hospital's own agreement with a North Carolina health conglomerate.

She says the future of health care lies in partnering with like-minded institutions without necessarily yielding control.

"Healthcare organizations must lower costs, reduce duplication in services, partner with other providers and grow responsibly," Gill says. "Hospitals around the country are forming partnerships that are intended to meet these goals."

Already this year, two rural Georgia hospitals have closed, citing dwindling revenue streams.