Prime Healthcare helps failing hospitals

Prime Healthcare helps failing hospitals

A year ago, Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale was about to close its doors, and that's when Prime Healthcare took over. 

According to Prime, their mission is to save hospitals and improve community healthcare, saving 44 hospitals in 14 states.

Now the company's sights are set on Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville.

Nicole Butler investigates the changes Prime has made at Southern Regional and the community's perception of the changes.

It's a busy day at Riverdale Towne Center, and Kyle McCrary is making sure his customers leave satisfied, but he remembers when he was forced to slow down after getting a second degree burns on his hand two years ago.

So he headed to the nearest hospital, Clayton County's Southern Regional Medical Center.

"It was an OK experience, you know. The only thing was probably the wait because I was kind of in pain," said McCrary.

He waited more than 2 hours to be seen.

In January 2016, the hospital was close to shutting its doors, so a year ago in February, Prime Healthcare bought Southern Regional and took over.

McCrary says when he recently returned to the emergency room with a friend, he saw a big difference.

"I was like, 'Wow, that was fast!' I was telling her, 'Be prepared to wait.' You know, 'Bring some snacks or something,'" McCrary said.

Many residents tell me that they've had to wait between 6 to 10 hours to receive care from the emergency room. This is one of the main issues the hospital is working to fix.

Southern Regional CEO Charlotte Dupre says their emergency department sees 55,000 patients a year,so cutting the wait time is a priority.

"We still aren't where we want to be, but it is getting there," Dupre said.

She says they've hired more doctors to help ease the patient flow, but Dupre says Prime is helping them get back on their feet in other departments as well.

"When we first came, we had about 22 leadership positions vacant. We also had a dire need for nursing staff," said Dupre.

In January 2016, a month before Prime took over, the hospital lost $2.8 million, but Dupre says the new owners helped Southern Regional balance the books quickly.

"Within 3 months, we broke even and we are looking at this year being able to achieve our target at about a 15 percent margin by the end of the year," said Dupre.

Even with wait time and profit gains, Southern Regional is still struggling to improve its health safety grade.

The Leapfrog Group gave the hospital a B last fall, and this spring, they have a C. 

Leapfrog, a national nonprofit, grades hospitals in areas like infection rates, medical errors, and proper staffing.

Prime Healthcare's divisional CEO James Summersett says the C reflects several years of problems before Prime took over.

Summersett said, "It doesn't surprise me to not have stable quality for maybe a year or two after an acquisition."

Dupre says they are working hard to bring that score up. 

"It's just a major focus on quality. You can't just get bored because you have the same job over and over again. It's, 'Every day is a new day,'" said Dupre.

Dupre says with Prime's management, they will continue caring for patients for years to come.

The board of Oconee Regional agreed to sell the hospital to Prime Healthcare Services for $12 million plus additional funds to cover liabilities. 

The deal will not be final for about 40 more days and needs approval from the state attorney general.

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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