After losing a certificate-of-need struggle in the state Legislature, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. said it has decided to pull 18 of its 19 Georgia hospitals out of the Georgia Hospital Association.
Legislation that would have loosened state regulation of hospitals was narrowly defeated in the Georgia House this year. Columbia supported the proposed legislation, while the hospital association opposed it (March 25, p. 66).
While praising the GHA's general leadership, Jim Slack, president of Columbia's Georgia division, said, "Due to GHA's decision to take a position directly opposed to our legislative agenda, we cannot at this time continue our membership."
Columbia has notified the GHA of its impending pullout, hospital association President Joseph Parker said. The loss of the hospitals would account for almost 10% of the GHA's membership and remove $300,000 in dues from its
$3 million annual budget.
"We regret we're going to lose members," Parker said. "It appears that Columbia is making this decision based on one issue, and not what the GHA has done on all issues."
A memo from Parker expressing opposition to the House certificate-of-need bill on behalf of the association's 190 members was circulated in the Legislature.
The only Columbia hospital remaining in the association will be Lanier Park Regional Hospital in Gainesville. Columbia said Lanier Park CEO Gerald Fulks has been an active GHA member.
But John Parker, an attorney for the Georgia Alliance of Not-for-Profit Hospitals, speculated that Columbia was leaving a single hospital to gain access to GHA information.
Columbia wants to offer heart surgery services in Atlanta and obstetrics services in Albany, Gainesville and Rome.
Much of the CON debate in the Legislature pitted for-profit hospitals such as Columbia's against not-for-profits. The not-for-profits argued that changes would let for-profits get the most lucrative patients without having to provide money-losing services such as neonatal intensive care. The for-profits countered that the law has resulted in monopolies for not-for-profits, and that repeal would lower the cost of medical services.