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Augusta, Ga. – (May 12, 2021) – The University Health Care System Board of Directors unanimously approved a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) for University Health Care System, the operator of University Hospital, to join Piedmont Healthcare, a high-quality, cost-effective provider in Georgia.

“We are thrilled about this strategic move to advance healthcare in our community,” said Hugh Hamilton, Chairman of University’s Board of Directors and the Richmond County Hospital Authority. “We know the future will demand more of us, and our partnership with Piedmont will enable us to transform healthcare for the Augusta region – ensuring University Health Care System can continue to provide exceptional care and fulfill our mission of improving the health of those we serve for future generations.”

Today’s announcement is the culmination of many years of thoughtful and deliberate discussions by the Board and builds on the existing relationship the organizations already have. For many years, University and Piedmont have collaborated on clinical initiatives to improve heart health, reinforcing University’s position as a leading provider of comprehensive and innovative heart and vascular services in the region.

“We are excited about the potential of partnering with University Health Care System to serve the patients of the greater Augusta region,” says Kevin Brown, president and CEO of Piedmont Healthcare. “We have a great deal of respect for the work they’re doing and the caliber of the administrative and clinical team. We share a common culture that includes a focus on quality and safety, fiscal responsibility and service to our collective communities. These are hallmarks of a good partnership, so I’m pleased that we’re able to explore further collaboration.”

The non-binding LOI is the first step toward a partnership as it 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.

“The University Board has been exploring several options, including how a partnership with a like-minded organization could ensure the long-term sustainability of our health system,” Hamilton said. “In conversations with Piedmont, it is evident that our organizations share similar values and commitment to quality, safety and service to the patients and communities we serve. This is a natural next step for both health systems in our efforts to improve health for the people of the Augusta region and across the state of Georgia.”

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 been able to achieve on our own as an independent health system,” said James R. Davis, president and CEO of University Health Care 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. Simply, now is the right time to move forward, and we are very much looking forward to pursuing this partnership with Piedmont and fulfilling our mission for years to come.”

Agreement Details

While the exact terms of a potential partnership are yet to be finalized, the benefits would transform University and further the health system’s commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care to the residents of 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, 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 the 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 Augusta.
  • Invest at least $2 million annually to support community benefit programs and other initiatives to address health disparities and inequities.
  • Ensure that all fundraising dollars and endowments of the University Health Care Foundation remain local.

It is important to note 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.

The agreement will require regulatory reviews and is expected to be finalized later this year.

“Our future is exciting, and our work to secure it is ongoing,” Hamilton said. “We now have the opportunity to take our future into our own hands and create something really special for the Augusta region, and we look forward to sharing more good news as we progress.”