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Oconee Regional hopes sale will keep doors open

Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville is moving forward with a deal executives hope will keep the bankrupt hospital open / Eric Mock (WGXA)

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville is moving forward with a deal executives hope will keep the bankrupt hospital open.

Steven Johnson, interim CEO of Oconee Regional, said that the hospital has entered into a sales agreement with Prime Healthcare Foundation.

He said that agreement, though not a final sale, will help to retain jobs and possibly even add more as services that the hospital offers expands.

Oconee Regional has been in turmoil since 2015, when board members, the CFO and the CEO resigned and Navicent Health took over management. Navicent and Oconee Regional then cut ties in November of that year.

This comes after the hospital has accrued millions in outstanding bonds that need to be paid. Johnson said the hospital will be restructuring their debt in bankruptcy courts in the next 90 days.

One frequent concern among staff at the hospital when it was being managed by Navicent in 2015 was that many may lose jobs. However, Johnson said that this deal with Prime Healthcare is another story because they are planning to outright purchase the hospital, not just take over management.

Johnson said that the sale will likely help the hospital to retain hundreds of jobs. Oconee Regional currently employs about 400 people.

He said that another frequent complaint from physicians was that the hospital was being forced to cut services. Johnson said that under Prime Healthcare, it is likely that services will be expanded. He noted the plan to open a cardiology department as a sign of positive change under the new owners.

However, before this sale can be finalized, Johnson said that the hospital must undergo bankruptcy hearings, which he said will take place in the next 60 days.

Next, he said that because Oconee Regional is a nonprofit hospital, the state attorney general must review its sale before it can be final. That process should be complete in 90 days.

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