Rural Georgia hospital gains reprieve


A rural Georgia hospital that was about to close for lack of funds will stay open after all, at least for now.

The company that owned Jenkins Medical Center in Millen, Ga. had announced in April that it would shut the aging facility down and send patients to a sister hospital 20 miles away. Instead, with days to go before the June 24 shutdown, Optim Health System of Savannah announced it sold the hospital to another company that intends to run it.

“It’s great news,” said Jeff Brantley, city administrator of Millen and a member of the local hospital authority. “We’re keeping the facility, we’re keeping the jobs, and looking for, hopefully, expanded services.”

The new owner doesn’t intend to just run the hospital. Records filed with the state of Georgia and the Florida Bar Association show the company that bought the hospital, GA Medical Holdings, Corp., is headed by a Florida lawyer who runs a medical testing company in that state, Aaron Durall.

If Durall wants to expand his company’s medical testing business in Georgia, it will be able to charge more if the test results are attached to a hospital license, Brantley said.

Now it’s got one.

The new owners also own a hospital in Dahlonega and one in Centre, Alabama, Brantley said.

Durall and the hospital’s new interim administrator, Earl Whiteley, did not immediately return messages from the AJC. Optim referred questions about the sale price and other aspects of the deal to Whiteley.

Local officials are just happy that patients will have 24-hour emergency room services available.

King Rocker, Millen’s mayor and a local development official, was devastated when he heard the hospital would close. Not only would the loss of skilled jobs hurt the area, he feared, but there are fundamental ripple effects. If any business is looking for a new location to settle, it doesn’t want to bring jobs to an area with no hospital.

“Oh man that’s good news,” Rocker said about the purchase. “You don’t want your hospital to close. It just leaves a lot of voids you can’t help.”

GA Medical Holdings is incorporated in Delaware, but Delaware incorporations are often just a formality because of the state’s corporation-friendly laws.

Jenkins Medical Center would have been the eighth rural hospital to close its doors in Georgia since 2010. Like others, it has faced a crunch from wilting reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid patients. In addition, Optim said too many patients were using the emergency room for minor issues they could take to their doctor.

The surrounding population has not declined, but the decline in private health insurance and the squeeze in federal reimbursements has been calamitous for rural health care, experts say.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Politics

Before Cabinet ascent, Price was Georgia’s biggest campaign spender
Before Cabinet ascent, Price was Georgia’s biggest campaign spender

Members of Georgia’s U.S. House delegation raised and spent millions of dollars ahead of last year’s election, but the state’s undisputed master of the political money game was former U.S. Rep. Tom Price. The Roswell Republican spent almost $2.5 million in 2015 and 2016, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of...
Georgia congressmen spent millions while cruising to re-election
Georgia congressmen spent millions while cruising to re-election

The money went to luxury fishing trips on the Chesapeake Bay, fundraisers at D.C.’s poshest restaurants and a 75th-birthday blowout at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. There were also tickets to the Masters golf tournament and a hotel room in the Virgin Islands, not to mention a stable of high-level campaign and social media consultants. Georgia&rsquo...
Bannon out at the White House after turbulent run
Bannon out at the White House after turbulent run

Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election by embracing their shared nationalist impulses, departed the White House on Friday after a turbulent tenure in which he shaped the fiery populism of the president’s first seven months in office. Bannon’s exit, the latest in a string of high-profile...
Georgia will change policy after complaints over notice sent to voters
Georgia will change policy after complaints over notice sent to voters

After facing a legal backlash over sending address confirmation notices to tens of thousands of voters who had moved within the county they had already registered in, Georgia has quietly decided to reverse course. State officials confirmed Friday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia will no longer give those voters a 30-day deadline...
Opinion roundup: Will Trump fire Bannon, Kushner; will Stone Mountain be blasted; is GOP the party of Lee? 
Opinion roundup: Will Trump fire Bannon, Kushner; will Stone Mountain be blasted; is GOP the party of Lee? 

A roundup of Friday’s editorials includes a look at why President Donald Trump should fire his son-in-law, Jeff Sessions and a pot prohibition, Trump’s fitness to lead and other issues. Here are some opinions from the Right and from the Left. Getting rid of Bannon may change nothing, a Bloomberg editorial suggests. But getting rid of Kushner...
More Stories