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Answer Man: Does Mayo own that hospital in Waycross, Ga.?

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Dear Answer Man, did Mayo own that hospital they're now getting rid of in Georgia? I've never heard of Mayo going backwards in this way on a major project.

Me, neither, and there's more reporting to be done on this whole topic.

Mayo announced on Nov. 20 it was ending its "integration agreement" with Satilla Health Services in Waycross, Ga., and pulling out of what had been the 230-bed Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Waycross. It was just three years ago that Mayo announced it would take over operation of the hospital and two nursing homes in Waycross, which is about 80 miles from Mayo's Jacksonville, Fla., campus.

Mayo doesn't own the hospital — the infrastructure is owned by the Ware County Hospital Authority , which makes it different from most other Mayo Clinic Health System arrangements in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Nonetheless, Mayo poured a lot of money, time and prestige into what was formerly known as the Satilla Regional Medical Center in Waycross, and its plan to pull out must be a conversation starter in other communities.

There's a very interesting document available online that details Mayo's "integration" with the Georgia facility in 2012. It says Satilla had no immediate financial reason to pursue a merger or sale, but it received an unsolicited offer to sell the hospital in 2009, which led officials to look into its options.

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The document, prepared in 2011 for the Georgia attorney general, says Satilla was interested in how this deal was similar to Mayo's acquisition of Immanuel-St. Joseph's Hospital in Mankato in 1996. After some research, the Satilla board decided to integrate with Mayo "because the board knew the type of affiliation it was looking for and recognized that Mayo was the perfect 'partner.'" It decided not to solicit offers from potential buyers or partners "since the board knew it would not result in a better offer."

As it turned out, Mayo wasn't such a perfect partner.

In terms of scale, the hospital in Waycross is bigger than Mayo's Mankato hospital, which has about 190 beds. The Waycross hospital and nursing homes have about 1,600 employees and annual revenues of about $160 million. The city of Waycross is only about the size of Red Wing, but the hospital serves a roughly nine-county region.

According to news stories, the clinic is pulling out because it's losing money, though I haven't found a public document on that score yet. The Ware County Hospital Authority doesn't even have a website, much less access to public documents online. It's probably relevant, though, that Mayo's third-quarter financial results were reported this month and its operating margin has shrunk by half this year compared with 2014, with expense growth outpacing revenue growth. A column on the Modern Healthcare website says that though Mayo tried to "get its costs under control in 2014 by trimming its workforce, scaling back health benefits and introducing more cost-sharing for employees ... it is once again seeing its expenses outpace revenue growth."

So, getting disentangled from Waycross will presumably help the bottom line in Jacksonville and Mayo generally.

According to a Georgia news story about the Waycross situation, an Atlanta-based health-care expert said Mayo "operates in a rarefied segment of the health-care industry," and operating community hospitals "are not the highest and best use of Mayo's time and capital."

If true, that's news to people in Austin, Albert Lea, Cannon Falls and a lot of other cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin with hospitals owned or operated by Mayo.

FYI, before Mayo coming to town, Waycross' claim to fame was that it was the hometown of actor Burt Reynolds. As it turns out, Reynolds recently a cknowledged he's from Lansing, Mich., not Waycross.

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Since I'm on the topic of Mother Mayo, here's another question that's been kicking around for awhile:

Dear Mr. True Enlighter of Esoteric Erudation, you probably can't answer this one or you'll be ridden out of town on a silver-surfaced rail, but why can't news reports simply say, "Mr. Jones was taken to the hospital" or "to Saint Marys Hospital" — does Mayo insist on "Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus" every time? It sounds ridiculous.

We all know that Mayo owns everything in Rochester. In fact, I hear they're working on a mind-altering laser that will be aimed at crows to make them say "Mayo" rather than "caw."

OK, my mini-rant is over. But a few of us were really wondering about the hospital name

I'm not aware of a mind-altering laser being developed at Mayo — that would be caws for alarm — but the rest of this is true. The official names of Saint Marys and Methodist hospitals were changed a few years ago, so even though it's a hassle for journalists, it's simply accurate to refer to "Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus."

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