Newly renamed Atrium Health to merge with Georgia’s Navicent

Just one day after announcing a name change from Carolinas HealthCare System, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health has signed a letter of intent to merge with another system, Navicent Health, based in Macon, Georgia.

Navicent and its flagship 637-bed hospital in Macon would be absorbed in Atrium, which was already expanding by merging with University of North Carolina (UNC) Health Care. Before adding Navicent’s facilities and workers, Atrium was set to control 50 hospitals and employ more than 90,000 people.

“We're focused on creating a personalized care experience for each and every patient and community we serve,” Atrium president and CEO Gene Woods said in a statement, adding that “the privilege to care for existing and new communities throughout central and south Georgia is another way to breathe life into our mission to care for all.”

Carolinas had already been the dominant hospital chain in North Carolina and one of the largest integrated systems in the U.S., even being accused by insurers of abusing its market share to keep patients away from lower-cost hospitals. The rebranding to Atrium was supposed to reflect the system’s growth into a regional system.

“Navicent Health has a shared mission with Atrium Health to continuously improve healthcare in this region,” said Ninfa M. Saunders, MD, president and CEO of Navicent. “This is the first major partnership of its type in the Southeast region and ensures a Macon-based institution will continue to be the leading driver of healthcare in central Georgia and beyond, while continuing to elevate the care that is provided locally.”

The proposed deal adds to the rapid consolidation seen in Georgia, which has four other major hospital combination completed or near finished. As in other states, hospital mergers have been criticized for not delivering on promises of helping customers, instead resulting in increased prices.

Atrium’s other would-be merger partner, UNC Health, said it was aware of the Navicent deal.

“We understand they have been in discussions for some time,” UNC Health said in a statement to the Raleigh News & Observer. “We believe this combination is further evidence of the consolidation that is occurring in health care around the country.”