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Newton Medical seeks partnership for survival
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Newton Medical Center is seeking an "equity relationship" with another healthcare system in the metropolitan Atlanta area, hospital officials announced Monday.

James F. Weadick, the hospital's chief executive officer, said he had mailed "requests for proposals and qualifications to larger systems in Metro Atlanta and hoped to finish a deal with one of them by early 2015.

"Like many small hospitals in increasingly competitive markets, Newton Medical simply lacks the scope and scale to be successful against much larger systems that are now entering our service area with well-established brands, broader offerings and the ability to operate with greater economic efficiency than we can," Weadick said.

"The Board of Directors of Newton Health System Inc., with the concurrence of the Newton County Hospital Authority Board, has decided to take the proactive step of seeking an equity partner that shares our vision and values, and our commitment to Covington and Newton County."

Weadick said he expects to receiving letters from interested systems within a couple of weeks with formal responses to Newton Medical's RFPQ due by mid-October.

He said it would take most of October to evaluate the proposals and that he expected to be able to narrow the field to two finalists by late that month. He said the hospital was establishing a team to evaluate the proposals that would include physicians, board members and administrators. He also said he anticipated making presentations to community groups about the hospital's plans as the process unfolds.

"We recognize that this is going to be a matter of some interest to the community and we're committed to being as transparent as possible," he said. "Certain aspects of the process will necessarily be confidential, at least for a time, but we intend to share what we can when we can. We strongly believe that the course we've chosen is in the community's best interest, and we intend to emerge from this with an enhanced ability to continue delivering quality healthcare."

Weadick said any final transaction would have to be approved by the Board of Directors of the Newton County Hospital Authority, which owns the system's physical assets, including the hospital. After that, state law requires that any transaction be reviewed and approved by the state attorney general, a process that could take up to 90 days and would entail at least one public hearing in Newton County.

Newton Medical Center opened in 1954 with 36 beds and has grown over the past 60 years into a 97-bed facility offering a broad range of medical services, including women's services, general surgery, an intensive care unit and radiology services, among many others. Its Emergency Department saw an average of 3,850 patients per month in 2013. It is located on U.S. 278 just a few blocks from downtown Covington.