MACON, Ga. — The deal between Navicent Health Inc. and Atrium Health has a lot of people talking and asking questions.

13WMAZ spoke with Navicent leaders, read their statements on the new arrangement, and saw the transcript of a November public hearing run by the Georgia Attorney General's Office.

Here's what we found out:

Q: Navicent is calling this a strategic combination. What's the difference between this partnership and a merger or takeover?

A: Ninfa Saunders says it's not a merger, where for-profit companies merge their public stock. Both Navicent and Atrium are non-profits.

And it's not a takeover because Navicent will operate as a separate hub of the Atrium system and run largely independent.

She says Navicent will operate as the "hub" of Atrium's Georgia network -- and not a "spoke" of the larger company.

Q: Is the Medical Center being sold?

No, it's still owned by the Bibb County Hospital Authority, which leases it to Navicent, which is now part of  Atrium.

Q: Who's really in charge?

A board of directors will still run Navicent, and Navicent officials told the Attorney General's office that the local board will continue to make decisions about services offered here. 

They say Atrium has agreed that at least 60 percent of the board will remain local.

Ninfa Saunders remains CEO at Navicent and she answers to Atrium's CEO, Gene Woods.

Q: Why is it happening?

Ninfa Saunders says Navicent's been looking for a partnership almost since she took over as CEO six years ago.

She said they needed to become bigger or be part of a bigger organization to stay viable, stay competitive  and to keep off possible competitors looking to move into the area from Atlanta.

Q: How will this affect jobs at the Medical Center?

Navicent employs more than 7,000 people in Central Georgia.

Atrium has agreed to keep all of the current employees on the job for at least a year at their current salaries and benefits.

But Saunders says she thinks their workforce will probably continue to grow under Atrium.

She also says Navicent employees will have greater opportunities to move to new jobs throughout the huge Atrium network.

Q: How will the Atrium deal benefit Central Georgians?

According to Navicent, there are at least three ways:

  1. They say Atrium has agreed to spend at least $425 million in Central Georgia over the next 10 years to expand and improve the health network.
  2. They agreed to continue Navicent's charity and indigent care and other community benefit programs for at least 10 years.
  3. And they said becoming part of a larger network will help cut costs.

Q: What other changes are coming?

Saunders said the new Navicent hub will put more resources into Internet-based "telehealth" that will help Navicent doctors speak to patients in their own communities -- possibly even their own homes. 

They say that will keep more patients in Central and South Georgia's small rural hospitals and that should keep those facilities stronger.

Atrium also plans to maintain or expand Navicent's physician-residency program and its four-year medical-school program with Mercer University

Q: Will Navicent's name change?

In December, Saunders told the state AG's office:

"At the outside, it will be co-branded, so it have Navicent and it will have Atrium. But just like any integration, we must work toward a common identity, at which point, we are one."