Two General Assembly Committees Devote Day to Grady

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(APN) ATLANTA — Two Georgia General Assembly Committees held separate hearings at the Georgia Capitol on the Grady Health System, Wednesday, September 19, 2007.

Members of the Greater Grady Task Force presented their final report to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee. Meanwhile, the House Special Committee on Grady heard some testimony on the Emory-Grady relationship.

Task Force member Tom Bell, CEO of Cousins Properties, Inc., tried to put to rest what he called “myths” about the Task Force recommendations, mainly those concerning governance.

Bell insisted the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority would remain as owner of Grady Hospital as a facility and asset, and would contract out the hospital’s operations to a new nonprofit, or 501(c)(3) corporation.

The new Board would not be a for-profit corporation and would have a nonpolitical board that could be composed of physicians, business leaders, community leaders, and existing Authority Members, Bell said.

The new Board would report annually to the current Hospital Authority and it would be beholden to sunshine laws in order to ensure accountability, Bell claimed.

A court ruling in 1995 said that sunshine laws do apply to a 501(c)(3) of this type, but State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Fulton County) said recent court proceedings have made this “unsettled law.”

The Grady Coalition, which has spoken out against changing the governing structure, should have been allowed to participate in the hearing, Fort said.

Committee Chairman, State Sen. David Adelman (D-DeKalb County), said he welcomes any interested party to the table and raised the possibility of holding another similar meeting in which the Grady Coalition could participate. Adelman is one of three Democrats who chairs a Committee in the Republican-led Assembly.

Dr. Thomas Lawley, Dean of the Emory Medical School, spoke to the House Special Committee on Grady and defended his School against accusations that Emory is taking advantage of Grady Hospital.

“Emory is not making money [off of Grady],” he said. “We are losing a tremendous amount of money from this contract.”

Emory is in a 29-year contract with Grady that can be broken by any party with a 12-month notice, Lawley said.

Grady’s roughly $50 million debt to both Emory as well as Morehouse School of Medicine has become problematic, Lawley said. “[We] can’t go on being Grady’s bankers,” he said.

Emory this week endorsed a call for a state audit of the financial relationship between Grady and the two medical schools to see exactly how that relationship works.

“Any claim that the Emory-Grady contract is written to the advantage of Emory and the disadvantage of Grady ignores a great deal of available evidence and does not even pass the test of common sense,” Dr. Michael M.E. Johns, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Emory, is quoted as saying in a September 15, 2007, press release.

Emory would not stand in Grady’s way if the Hospital wanted to look elsewhere for a new partner, but notes that Grady has a good thing going with its current relationship.

“Just as a matter of dollars and cents, the medical care delivered by Emory and Morehouse is being provided at a striking discount price,” Johns said in the press release. “It is simply impossible for the hospital to buy the huge volume, and the high quality, of health care that Emory delivers at Grady on the open market.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer of The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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