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Mar. 18--Karen Papouchado doesn't recall any particular controversy after Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. bought Aiken Regional Medical Centers.
She does remember the money.
The hospital giant gave her group, Growing in Life, $10,000 in 1992 for a project to cut infant mortality in the region.
"There would not have been any other avenue" to raise that kind of cash without Columbia/HCA, says Papouchado, coordinator for the March of Dimes-backed group.
Papouchado's experience with for-profit hospital giants is pretty common. These companies are fierce competitors and aggressive cost-cutters that can strike fear into the hearts of smaller hospitals.
But they also tend to carry solid reputations for quality care. And they pour a ton of money on the table when they come into a new town. Columbia/HCA sold Aiken Regional last year so it could buy a hospital in Augusta. But that hasn't changed the company's local reputation.
"Any significant change in a small community is distressing," acknowledges Papouchado, who's also mayor pro tem of Aiken. "It's just the way people react to change in general. But we ended up being very pleased.
"Where there's more money, there's more money to give."
Columbia/HCA is …