January 14, 2008
The Georgia General Assembly begins its 2008 session today.Constitutionally, the legislature is charged with approving a budget for the state.One critical item on this year’s agenda must be saving cash-strapped Grady Memorial Hospital, which is in critical condition.
Grady Memorial Hospital (“Grady”), in the heart of downtown Atlanta, serves 850,000 outpatients a year and admits 30,000 inpatients.It is the only Level One Trauma Center in north Georgia, and it provides the city of Atlanta’s only emergency ambulance fleet.In addition to treating accident victims, Grady has the state’s only poison center and has an esteemed burn center.Serious accident victims are often transferred to Grady for care.
Because Grady serves a large uninsured and indigent population, it provides a critical safety net for those who cannot afford health care. In addition, Grady provides an important training ground for medical students at Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine.
However, Grady faces possible closure or restructuring if it cannot find funding to repay its $100 million debt to Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine.Medical residents complain that budget shortfalls have left Grady in desperate need of up-to-date medical equipment and basic supplies.Further, because of the under funding, medical care to patients is often compromised.Grady officials estimate that the hospital needs an infusion of $366 million to upgrade the facility and meet long-ignored capital needs.Grady ranks below average on safety measures like preventing bedsores, infection and death in low-risk situations.Such problems lead to potential medical malpractice lawsuits.
However, if Grady closes it doors, other local and regional hospitals will be flooded with indigent patients, and the training ground for one in four doctors will disappear. According to The National Association of Public Hospitals, charity hospitals such as Grady account for only 2 percent of all hospitals, but provide for 25 percent of indigent care.The cost of caring for the uninsured has risen while taxpayer support has stagnated.
In November, the Grady Board approved plans to restructure as a 501c3 corporation.However, it agreed to do so only if the state and surrounding counties pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to Grady.Prior to the restructure, Grady operated as a hospital authority under the DeKalb and Fulton County Commissions.Only these two counties make annual appropriations to the hospital’s budgets.However, two out of ten patients arrive from other counties daily.Meanwhile, county contributions have not increased.County commissioners claim they are reluctant to increase funding when the state and other counties will not contribute.
Consumer groups worry that changing the governance structure of Grady will reprioritize its resources, and that patients will fall to the bottom of the priority list.Consumer advocates, such as Allison Wall, executive director of Georgia Watch, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, worry that a change in governance will cause a shift in Grady’s mission of providing indigent care.
Grady officials want the state legislature to permanently fund as much $30 million. Democrats want to increase state funding of Grady by possibly taping into funds provided by other metro countries that use Grady. House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) proposed a $10 fee on car tags for 2008 to support the hospital.Governor Sonny Perdue has proposed additional fines on “super speeders” to help fund the Grady Healthcare System.Many state Republicans want to see more fiscal responsibility from Grady’s current board before allocating more money to the Grady Healthcare System. Another option on the legislative agenda is for the state to finance a statewide trauma network.
Many of our clients, receive treatment at Grady.If you have been injured in an accident, please contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.As the Georgia legislature convenes over the next few months, we will keep you up to date on the status for this important Georgia trauma hospital.