AUGUSTA (GEORGIA) – The Medical College of Georgia (MCG) will take charge of clinical services at East Central Georgia Regional Hospital under a new agreement with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), the organizations announced Thursday. The public sector partnership, which takes effect immediately, will bring to the hospital additional staff and the benefit of academic-caliber forensic and mental health services. East Central had in the past been considered a candidate for closure or privatization. With the new partnership in place, the hospital will instead be a centerpiece of the state’s efforts to improve the quality of care in its facilities statewide.

“Our partnership with MCG will provide stability to our clinical workforce and a new level of accountability, quality, and consistency,” said DBHDD Commissioner Frank Shelp, MD, MPH. “This agreement brings not only immediate benefits to the hospital campuses in Augusta and Gracewood, but also begins the transformation of our hospital system from one in which cutting-edge treatment arrives last, if at all, to one that will be on the forefront of evidence-based medicine. We hope, too, that psychiatric residents get a taste for the challenges and rewards of working in the public behavioral health system and that more of them will choose careers in the public sector.”

Current East Central Georgia Regional Hospital employees will continue on staff to provide direct care and support services; only a handful of administrators are likely to see their roles change. MCG has already named a new hospital administrator, Nan Lewis, who brings experience as a CEO of psychiatric hospitals and a reputation for turning around struggling institutions. Dr. Don Manning, Director of Public Psychiatry at MCG, will oversee treatment at East Central as medical director.

Additional academic psychiatrists, forensic psychiatrists, and psychologists will be brought to the hospital by MCG. The agreement will also see psychiatric residents, nurses, and students practicing and learning at East Central.

“We are delighted that Dr. Shelp, who has prior experience with successful state-university collaborations, has asked us to assist the DBHDD," said Dr. Peter Buckley, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior and associate dean for leadership development in the MCG School of Medicine. "With his support, we will leverage the resources of MCG toward ‘turning around’ East Central Georgia Regional Hospital. Under the excellent joint leadership of Ms. Lewis and Dr. Manning, we look forward to enhancing the quality of mental health care for the citizens of our region. We are also excited about our trainees getting the opportunity to experience patient care within the public system.

“Additionally, we have recently launched a forensic fellowship and also a schizophrenia fellowship- these opportunities will attract additional outstanding doctors to our system," Dr. Buckley said. "Forging this new partnership with Dr. Shelp and his team is strategic. We believe it can be a real win-win."

The initial agreement between MCG and DBHDD is expected to last three to five years, with monthly progress reports and annual reviews to determine whether it will continue. In addition to providing key personnel, MCG will also provide assistance in carrying out the State’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice under the CRIPA law, to perform an analysis of the hospital’s needs in staffing and education, and to work with the School of Nursing to develop a plan to recruit and retain professional nurses.

Ninety-percent of the agreement’s first year cost of approximately $2 million will be covered by redirecting existing hospital resources.

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