Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers to help you learn more about our partnership with Piedmont Healthcare. You can also submit a question of your own in the box to the right. We will update this page regularly to answer new questions we receive.

Overview

What is happening?

The University Health Care System Board of Directors is excited to share its unanimous approval of a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) to join Piedmont Healthcare, Georgia’s high-quality, cost-effective provider. After a deliberate process, the Board has decided that the best option for our health system to fulfill our mission is to pursue a partnership with Piedmont Healthcare.

What does this mean?

This announcement is the culmination of many years of thoughtful and deliberate discussions by the Board. For years, University and Piedmont have collaborated on clinical initiatives to improve heart health, which has helped University further establish itself as a leading provider of comprehensive and innovative heart and vascular services in the region.

A partnership with Piedmont Healthcare is the best way to secure the long-term sustainability of the health system serving the Augusta region. Our partnership with Piedmont will enhance the quality of healthcare through necessary capital investments to advance our mission here in our community in ways not possible otherwise.

The non-binding LOI is the first step toward a partnership as it allows for a period of due diligence for our two organizations to spend time learning more about each other and to determine specific terms of a partnership before final decisions are made.

Why is this happening? Why now?

University’s Board of Directors continuously plans for the future of healthcare in our community and has been exploring several options for how best to fulfill our mission, including how a partnership with a like-minded organization could ensure the long-term sustainability of the health system.

Healthcare continues to experience unprecedented change and transformation. At the same time, with reimbursements for services continuing to decline and costs rising, hospitals and health systems have been forced to do more with less making it even more challenging for University to stay independent.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved on our own as an independent health system. By making this decision now, we’re able to enter this process from a position of strength, building upon University’s 203-year legacy and stable leadership that has engineered success through foresight and financial stewardship. A partnership with Piedmont is the best way to secure the long-term sustainability of the health system and enhance the quality of healthcare through necessary capital investments to advance our mission here in our community in ways not possible otherwise.

Who made this decision? How was this decision made?

University’s Board of Directors continuously plans for the future of healthcare in our community and has been exploring several options for how to best fulfill our mission, including how a partnership with a like-minded organization could ensure the long-term sustainability of the health system.

To provide the best healthcare options for our patients, the Board of Directors used the following objectives while evaluating prospective partners:

  • Preserve and improve the long-term financial stability of University
  • Maintain or enhance University’s current patient quality of care
  • Allow University to maintain key talent and improve recruitment efforts

Secondarily, the Board wanted to:

  • Enhance University’s regional relevance and allow for the creation of a broader platform to provide healthcare services
  • Position University to take advantage of value and risk-based opportunities
  • Provide resources to support University’s business intelligence services and capabilities

After a deliberate process, the Board has decided the best option for our health system and our community is to pursue a partnership with Piedmont Healthcare.

Details of the Partnership

What will this partnership bring?

While the terms are yet to be finalized, the benefits would transform University and further our commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care to our residents in the Augusta region. Key details of the LOI include commitments to:

  • Establish University as the Piedmont Healthcare Augusta “Hub” for clinical services.
  • Leverage the expertise of Piedmont Healthcare to enhance high-quality care as well as improve operational expertise.
  • Invest more than $1 billion over 10 years to enhance and expand University facilities, information technology, and clinical infrastructure and operational capabilities to better serve the diverse healthcare needs of the region.
  • Keep local representation on the Board of Directors in place to ensure our community’s voice is heard as part of decision-making regarding the Augusta Clinical Hub.
  • Maintain current staff.
  • Maintain current medical staff membership and privileges. Piedmont will also leverage its resources to recruit additional highly qualified providers to University.
  • Invest at least $2 million annually to support community benefit programs and other initiatives to address health disparities and inequities.
  • Ensure all fundraising dollars and endowments of the University Health Care Foundation remain local.

What is a Letter of Intent (LOI)?

An LOI is a non-binding agreement, the first step toward a partnership that allows for a period of due diligence for the two organizations to spend time learning more about each other and to determine specific terms of a partnership before final decisions are made.

Why Piedmont Healthcare?

In conversations with Piedmont, it is evident that our organizations are very similar and that a partnership is a natural next step for both of our health systems in our efforts to improve the health of the people of the Augusta region and across the state of Georgia.

We share similar values and commitment to caring for the patients and communities we serve. Both Piedmont Healthcare and University are committed to high-quality care. For example, University Hospital was the only hospital in Georgia to receive the prestigious distinction of a 2020 Leapfrog Top Hospital in the U.S. for quality and safety and recently earned its thirteenth Leapfrog A rating. Likewise, more Piedmont hospitals have received A grades from the Leapfrog Group than any other system in the state. Piedmont’s excellent national reputation for clinical quality, non-profit mission and Georgia roots make them the best partner to explore. Importantly, Piedmont Healthcare is a cultural fit and shares our commitment to retaining and attracting local employees and providers.

Did University consider a partnership with other health systems?

Yes. The University Board has thoughtfully considered every option and opportunity available, including whether a partnership with a like-minded organization would be the right way to achieve our vision for the future. We are excited about the opportunity to work with Piedmont Healthcare which would transform University and further our commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care to our community.

Is the Board selling the health system?

No, this is not a sale. As we move forward with the partnership, all of University’s assets will remain with the Richmond County Hospital Authority. Through the partnership, University would be operated by Piedmont, which brings advanced systems, quality improvements and capital investments to further enhance healthcare in the Augusta region.

For the Community

What does this mean for patients and the community?

We recognize that local, high-quality healthcare access is key to ensuring the Augusta region is a great place to live, work and raise a family. The Board is committed to safeguarding the health system’s trusted position as a community non-profit partner with a local Board and management team in place to oversee services close to home for all residents regardless of their ability to pay. Top of mind for the Board is to maintain or enhance its current patient quality of care, elevate its regional relevance and position the health system to take advantage of opportunities that are otherwise not possible. Importantly, core clinical services are guaranteed, and we will continue to provide care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Will there be any service changes?

No. A goal of the partnership is to enhance services to support the quality of care and growth potential of our organization. Importantly, core clinical services are guaranteed, patients will continue to see the same providers they know and trust, and we will continue to provide care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Will University's hospitals and locations change names?

It is important to know that nothing changes today. Signing the LOI is the first step in a thoughtful process that will take months to complete. Branding is a discussion that will be made with Piedmont’s input.

Will University continue to accept the same insurance plans it accepts today?

It is important to know that nothing changes today for employees, physicians, patients and the community. Patients will continue to see the same providers they know and trust.

Can you explain the hub-and-hub strategy? Are there other hubs?

The Augusta region is a community that Piedmont Healthcare has always been interested in serving and they are thrilled that University chose them as their partner.

This decision is about keeping health care local, expanding access, and taking advantage of the resources of a larger health system. If everything goes as planned, it will be beneficial for everyone involved, including those we serve in South Carolina and especially the greater Augusta community.

Through the partnership, University would be part of Piedmont Healthcare’s innovative hub-and-hub strategy, keeping comprehensive care close to home and establishing University as the Piedmont Healthcare Augusta “Hub” for clinical services. University would join other hubs throughout the state in Atlanta, Athens and Columbus.

What happens to Prompt Care, nursing homes and McDuffie?

The partnership with Piedmont includes the entire health system, including University Hospital McDuffie, three skilled nursing facilities – Kentwood, Westwood and Amara – and all joint ventures.

For Employees and Physicians

What does this mean for University employees?

We will maintain current University staff, and our commitment to employees and physicians does not change. University’s employees are vital to advancing care in the Augusta region. The Board has the best interests of everyone in mind and, as we work through this process, retaining our employees is paramount.

What does this mean for University physicians?

University physicians will maintain their current medical staff membership and privileges, and our commitment to physicians does not change. Physicians are vital to delivering and advancing care in the Augusta region. Without them, we cannot exist. One of our primary goals with Piedmont Healthcare is to maintain a strong physician community.

Piedmont will also leverage its resources to recruit additional highly qualified providers to University, and all employed physicians will join the Piedmont Clinic (Piedmont’s Clinically Integrated Network) and have access to all the resources, expertise, intellectual capital, and associated support as provided to all other Piedmont Clinic physicians.

The Board has the best interests of everyone in mind, and as we work through this process, retaining and maintaining a strong physician community is paramount.

Will jobs and benefits be impacted?

University’s employees and physicians are vital to delivering and advancing care in the Augusta region, and we will maintain current staff. Employees will maintain similar benefit packages and receive credit for years of service.

Will contracts remain in place?

It is important to know that nothing changes today for employees, physicians, patients and the community. Signing the LOI is the first step in a thoughtful process that will take months to complete.

It’s too early to speculate on how this may impact certain contracts specifically, but we value the relationships with our community and industry partners and maintaining the integrity of those relationships is a priority. As the due diligence proceeds, someone will contact your company regarding the contract should changes be necessary.

Will this impact retiree benefits?

We value our retirees and the contributions they made to our health system during their tenure with University Health. Our goal is for employee and retiree benefits to be the same or better than the existing plans, but those details are still being finalized. You will be contacted as soon as we know more. Signing the LOI is the first step in a thoughtful process that will take months to complete. We will know more after a definitive agreement is signed and are committed to communicating with you as we have more details to share along the way.

Process and Next Steps

What happens next?

Signing the LOI is the first step in a thoughtful process that will take months to complete. University and Piedmont Healthcare now enter into a period of due diligence to conduct research and hold detailed conversations to determine the specific terms that may be ultimately included in a partnership agreement. Prior to the finalization of a partnership, a definitive agreement will require regulatory reviews and is expected to be finalized later this year.

How can I learn more?

Both organizations are committed to ongoing communication with employees, physicians and our community over the coming weeks and months to make sure everyone has a chance to have their questions answered and to understand what an extraordinary event this is for our community and the University family. Please continue to check this website along the way for updates. As always, our number one priority remains providing the high-quality care our friends and neighbors deserve and have come to expect.

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