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Georgia systems combine into 12-hospital entity

Marietta, Ga.-based Wellstar Health System and Augusta (Ga.) University Health System are officially one, effective Aug. 30. 

AU Health's three hospitals have joined Wellstar's nine to create a unified entity. Moving forward, AU Health will be known locally as Wellstar MCG Health — "MCG" coming from Augusta University's "Medical College of Georgia," according to a joint news release from the health systems and the University System of Georgia. 

As part of the merger, Wellstar has committed to invest $797 million in Augusta facilities over the next 10 years and bring more clinicians through the state as it works closely with the Medical College of Georgia. 

The inked deal comes after months of scrutiny from lawmakers and civil rights advocates. Some raised questions about Wellstar's commitment, considering the health system shuttered two hospitals in primarily Black neighborhoods last year — Atlanta Medical Center and Atlanta Medical Center South — citing financial hardship. Wellstar's investment in Augusta includes the construction of a new hospital in the primarily white Columbia County, Ga. 

However, spirits were high at the Aug. 30 signing ceremony as Wellstar became the sole corporate member of AU Health, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Wellstar President and CEO Candice Saunders said she believes the partnership will strengthen both organizations. 

"We are always trying to bring the most advanced clinical care to our communities, and through this partnership, will now be able to add that innovated academic teaching models and lifesaving research to all corners of the state," Ms. Saunders told the paper. "We also think that by working together, we can ensure the financial sustainability of both of our organizations, because we know that our communities depend on us today, as well as tomorrow and into the future."

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