Paul Johnson

St. Joseph’s Hospital announced on March 11 that it would go into partnership with Emory Healthcare and create the largest health care system in Georgia.

Sandy Springs-based St. Joseph’s, the oldest hospital in metro Atlanta, had been trying for months to reach some sort of business arrangement with another health care system.

St. Joseph’s officials talked to both Emory Healthcare and Piedmont Healthcare last year, but those talks ended without an agreement. More recently, St. Joseph’s officials considered selling the hospital to another health care system.

The new arrangement is not a sale, but a partnership between the two hospitals, Saint Joseph said.

The two systems will create a Joint Operating Company. Emory Healthcare will own 51 percent of the hospital. St. Joseph’s “will retain involvement in the governance of JOC, including super majority voting rights on certain issues critical to Saint Joseph’s mission and values,” the hospital said in announcing the deal, which was subject to review by the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta.

Reporter Newspapers asked St. Joseph’s Interim President and CEO Paul Johnson about how the arrangement will work. Here are his replies.

Q. Why did St. Joseph’s leadership pursue this partnership?

A. The Saint Joseph’s Board of Trustees and our national affiliated parent corporation, Catholic Health East, recognized that a local affiliation or partnership would better position us for the challenges ahead in healthcare, as opposed to a national partner.

This partnership helps us meet the needs of a growing population during an era of health care reform, a consolidating health care environment, and rapid economic change.

Q. The announcement says St. Joseph’s and Emory Healthcare will form a Joint Operating Company. What will be St. Joseph’s role in the company?

A. A Joint Operating Company with Emory allows St. Joseph’s to retain the characteristics of our current health system, while partnering with another well-respected local health system. This partnership will allow for investments to be made in St. Joseph’s which will ensure growth and long-term sustainability, and it will allow St. Joseph’s to retain a 49 percent stake in ownership as well involvement in governance with seats on the board.

Q. Do you expect any staffing changes in the short- or long-term? If so, in what areas?

A. The goal of this partnership is growth of services and expansion of accessible care for the community. At this time no staffing changes have been discussed.

Q. Discussions about JOC involving Emory Healthcare didn’t work out last year. What changed? How is this proposal different?

A. Additional time allowed St. Joseph’s to explore other options and allowed Emory to firm up its decision to become involved in the partnership. In the interim, we have been able to develop an even more compelling vision for the advantages of this partnership for both organizations. The basic framework for the proposed partnership is very similar to what was worked out in the fall.

Q. Although Emory will own 51 percent of St. Joseph’s, St. Joseph’s will remain a Catholic facility. How will that work?

A. We anticipate that the Joint Operating Company structure allows for sufficient involvement and oversight by St. Joseph’s to assure a continued commitment to the Catholic culture and practices as well as the required adherence to ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church.