Emory plans to wipe out DeKalb Medical’s $170M debt when they merge

DeKalb Medical is joining Emory Healthcare.

DeKalb Medical is joining Emory Healthcare.

Emory Healthcare’s absorption of DeKalb Medical Center has been approved by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

The AG’s office announced its approval of the merger Friday in a news release. Pending final regulatory approval, DeKalb Medical will become part of Emory on Sept. 1.

“Emory really came to the table with a proposal for growing, not just existing,” DeKalb Medical spokeswoman Cheryl Iverson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As part of the deal, she said, Emory will pay off DeKalb Medical’s more than $173 million in long-term debt it reported to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2016. The 2017 numbers weren’t available.

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“It’s not just paying off the debt,” Iverson said. “ ... Our mission is being able to continue serving the community.”

There will be no change to services following the merger, said Emory spokeswoman Janet Christenbury.

The largest of DeKalb Medical’s three hospitals is on North Decatur Road, with 389 beds reported in 2016. The community health system has more than 800 doctors and about 4,000 employees, according to a news release.

Emory Healthcare, an academic healthcare system, has seven hospitals and hundreds of provider locations throughout Georgia.

More and more, said Iverson, smaller hospital systems are being acquired by massive regional care groups. She said that is due to the industry’s shift toward data-heavy operations, which work best with a large reach.

“It is increasingly difficult if not impossible for standalone hospitals to exist in the current environment,” Iverson said. “You really have to be a part of a hospital system to do that.”

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The hospital systems started the process in November, and was approved by the Federal Trade Commission in March.

The merger follows rocky times for DeKalb Medical. At the end of 2017, the CEO resigned and about 60 workers were laid off due to financial woes. Soon after, its chief financial officer and chief operating officer resigned.

About that time, DeKalb Medical was threatened with losing its Medicare provider status because a patient died from an overdose after being given 10 times the recommended dosage of a hypertension medication.

Iverson is hopeful this is just the turnaround DeKalb Medical needs.

“Emory is making an investment in our facilities and services,” she said.

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