Marietta-based WellStar Health System and Augusta University Health System have signed a letter of intent to form a partnership, the two systems announced Tuesday.
The proposed partnership, subject to a final agreement and regulatory approval, would let WellStar create a broader affiliation with Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia (MCG) as AUHS joins the WellStar system.
“By bringing Augusta University Health System together with WellStar Health System and leveraging our respective strengths, we would improve the health of the community, address social determinants of health and expand access to quality care for all Georgians,” said Candice Saunders, WellStar’s president and CEO.
The two systems have been working toward a partnership since 2019.
“AUHS, Augusta University and the WellStar Health System have a shared mission to solve Georgia’s health-care challenges,” said Sonny Perdue, chancellor of the University System of Georgia. “By joining forces and working together, we can leverage WellStar’s clinical platform and leading-edge systems to support patients while providing more opportunities for students to learn, train and care for residents in local communities across Georgia.”
If approved, the partnership would focus on expanding digital health offerings to create more convenient access to care and provide more individualized care regardless of location. It also is aimed at growing Georgia’s pipeline of physicians and other health-care providers as well as developing new treatments.
While there are aspects of the proposed partnership yet to be determined, it likely would result in significant investments to improve existing health-care facilities and expand access to care across the state, including a new hospital and medical office buildings in Columbia County.
“Providing health care has never been as dynamic and complex as it is today,” said Brooks Keel, president of Augusta University. “This partnership … would enable us to extend our mission of improving health through excellence in patient care, education and research for the benefit of Georgians.”
A new teaching campus at WellStar Kennestone Hospital could also be established under the proposed partnership. As a result, MCG, which already has the ninth-largest freshman medical school class in the nation, would grow to become one of the largest public medical schools in the country.
Tuesday’s announcement came less than two months after WellStar’s Atlanta Medical Center closed its doors, dealing a huge blow to patient care in Georgia’s capital city. The state responded by sending $130 million in federal pandemic funds to Grady Memorial Hospital to help offset the impact of the closure.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.