*cross-posted at MB's Word on the Street
*edited & updated 5/10/23
As mentioned in this space a couple of months back, an alert reader made me aware of the fact that the Newton County Hospital Authority (NCHA) was still in existence. Further, this reader asked if I would do a little digging on it. Well, that's kind of what I do, so I proceeded to investigate. After a fair amount of research & time, and after having interviewed the authority's Chair - Billy Fortson - I have this report to tender for your consideration.
And a quick aside. A few of you may remember, going all the way back to 2015, when the deal was first struck w/ Piedmont Healthcare to take over Newton Medical Center. At that time, those of us who'd been closely following (often in a frustrating manner) all the particulars w/ the peculiar structure of the Authority had initial cause for celebration, as this would finally do away w/ the extra millage the Newton Co taxpayer had been paying for the ambulance service & indigent care while (erroneously) thinking it'd also give an extra revenue stream to the county.
Well, there is a revenue stream now. Has been for eight years. It's just not going to the county general fund. No, rather, it goes straight to the Newton County Hospital Authority. More on that later.
First off, per the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Newton County Hospital Authority is not in compliance & has failed to file its mandated Annual Authority Registration & Financial (AARF) Reports since 2018.
That was basically the first thing I asked Billy Fortson, authority Chair, when I first spoke w/ him on the phone about this approx a month ago.
He had no idea what I was talking about.
He got back to me the next day on that & admitted that it had basically slipped through the cracks. That back in the day, somebody w/ Newton Medical Center always took care of that.
Even though the arrangement became official in 2015, it appears that things operated as they always had up until 2018 when everything was completely separated between the two entities - the authority & the hospital itself.
As of today, May 9, 2023, they still are not in compliance.
I scheduled an in-person interview w/ Mr Fortson on April 13th of this year. We met for almost an hour & went over all of the financials & I even got to go through the checkbook the past several years.
I'd like to take a moment to thank Billy Fortson for being forthcoming & willing to meet w/ me.
Here's, basically, the rub. In bullet point format:
- the affiliation agreement between NCHA & Piedmont Newton closed in September of 2015 & was for 40 years
- the most recent meeting of the NCHA Board of Directors was 9/29/22
- their most recent bank balance as of about a month & a half ago was approx $547,000
- for the first three years of the affiliation/agreement, the authority was paid $100,000 per year from Piedmont
- starting in 2018 that annual payment was reduced to $50,000
- looking through the checkbook, there isn't really much going on. They get the money from Piedmont once a year. Every year they pay for D & O (Directors & Officers) Insurance in an amount that has fluctuated from $2,500 to $4,315. Also, they have to do an audit most years. In 2021, apparently two audits were done for a total amount of $10,000
- the biggest outlay the authority's had in the past few years was in 2020 when they paid $25,000 as a "contributing expense" for the top floor of the old Faulkner Building next to the hospital to provide office space for a local charity - The Repairers of the Breach
And that's really about it. Not much going on. I looked over the checkbook & a fair number of the bank statements.
The obvious question is why? Why is the authority still in operation? Apparently it has something to do w/ legalities. I've looked into it but honestly I'm not 100% sure but I believe it has something to do w/ a local government not being able to affiliate w/ a
for-profit business so therefore the authority has to remain intact to act a quasi-governmental middleman of sorts (updated: Piedmont Healthcare is a not-for-profit operation technically *see addendum below)
But to me, the bigger question is this. Why the hell isn't Piedmont Newton paying more than $50,000 year!
And another one. Is it not possible for the county government to be getting funds paid to it from the authority?
Again, my knowledge here is lacking. I'm not sure how all of this works. Perhaps there are some out there that can clarify & shed some light. If so, please do.
So, in closing, the Newton County Hospital Authority is very much still in existence & has approx a half million in the bank.
Until next time,
you can email Marshall at: marshallmccart (at) gmail (dot) com
P.S. I asked Fortson point blank if he or any of the officers or directors got paid anything for serving on the board & he said no. Nothing. Totally a volunteer board. From what I saw going over the financials, that seems to be accurate.
In yesterday’s piece on the Newton County Hospital Authority, I erroneously referred to Piedmont Newton as for-profit when they are in fact legally considered to be a not-for-profit.
But when I say “not-for-profit,” you should imagine me putting up finger quotes as I say it. Looking through Piedmont Newton Hospital, Inc’s IRS Form 990 there are definitely profits being made by several persons that I’ll be writing about in the future.
As for Piedmont Newton itself, it made approx. $16 million in 2020 (the latest year I have information on) & had a fund balance at the time in excess of $31 million.
Wonder how much of that was that Covid $$$?
Meanwhile, the Newton Co Hospital Authority gets $50K every year & Newton Co gets zero.
P.S. Piedmont Newton’s Mission Statement reads as the following:
”TO PROVIDE COMPASSIONATE AND SUSTAINABLE HEALTHCARE IN A PROGRESSIVE ENVIRONMENT.”