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Rotary Club hears Piedmont plans
Billy Fortson speaks to the Rotary Club of Covington, as President Tommy Davis, Treasurer Gigi Crukshank and Secretary Salisa Bacon look on.

Upcoming Rotary Club of Covington guest speakers

Sept. 8 – Arvo Bowen on personal protection

Sept. 15 – Ken Justice on children and horses

Sept. 22 – Gabriel Khouli on Baxalta

Sept. 29 – Rotary District Governor Alan Smith

The club meets each Tuesday at noon at the Covington First United Methodist Church

Vice Chairman of the Newton County Hospital Authority, Billy Fortson, told the Rotary Club of Covington Tuesday that Piedmont Healthcare System was the only one of the nine organizations looked at to merge with Newton Medical Center that fulfilled all of the local hospital’s requirements.

After the first 90 days of 2014 brought “disastrous” financial fortunes for the hospital, Fortson said the authority gathered and that “it was obvious to many of us that we had to make some changes.” The board then met on July 14 and determined an affiliation was needed.

Fortson told the Rotary Club, gathered at Covington First United Methodist Church, that nine organizations were identified. Seven of those organizations were granted requests for proposals and Newton Medical received three “yes’s” — two from non-profit entities and one from a for-profit company.

The three finalists were Emory, LifePoint and Piedmont. Piedmont came out as the winner, as it was the only facility not to seek county support.

“So the 1.2 mils that has been coming on the tax bills, that will go away,” Fortson said.

According to Fortson, Piedmont also guaranteed repayment of the existing bond left for the hospital to pay, which is in the vicinity of $16 million.

“We have to deposit around $176,000 a month to cover the interest and principle in payment on bonds, and that will go away,” Fortson said. “That will give us a little more financial savings.”

Piedmont Healtcare Systems and Newton Medical Center came to an agreement in January, and the lease was announced in May. Last month a public hearing was held, and the deal is now in front of the attorney general.

If the agreement is finalized, Piedmont Newton will be the second smallest hospital in the Piedmont system, next to Jasper.
Another item Fortson mentioned is that Piedmont will be putting up $3 million for the emergency room expansion, to go along with $4 million in SPLOST funds, along with what amounts to $8.5 million to convert all of Newton Medical Center’s computer systems.

Piedmont’s assets will not only add to Newton Medical Center, but the merger may have saved the area’s hospital. When Rotary member Pete Carter asked what is the speculation of what would happen to the hospital if an affiliation did not take place, Fortson gave a short answer:

“Well, in 12 months five hospitals across Georgia have closed,” Fortson said.