DeKalb County Delays Again on Grady Hospital

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(APN) ATLANTA — The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday, September 25, 2007, to defer voting on Grady Hospital issues before them for two weeks.

The Board decided to delay action on eight resolutions introduced by Commissioners Larry Johnson (District 3) and Connie Stokes (District 7) on September 11, 2007, because Members said they need more time to review the language of those resolutions.

Perhaps the most important out of these resolutions would provide $5 million in emergency funding, with $1 million to be provided within 60 days.

The Board appears willing to provide that money, but Johnson said it would not be “a blank check.”

“The $5 million is not going to come without strings attached,” he said. “Grady is going to have to provide an accountability plan.”

DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones spoke of the importance of other regional counties paying their fair share to Grady.

“DeKalb has been more than giving to Grady,” Jones said. “If others pay their fair share, we can lower our costs.”

Grady treats patients with little or no insurance from other Metro Atlanta counties, yet none of these counties chip in money to pay for the Grady system, Jones pointed out.

One of the resolutions calls for the Georgia General Assembly to pass legislation that would require all Georgia counties to pay funds to Grady on a proportionate, per-patient basis for indigent care.

In return, Fulton and DeKalb Counties would reimburse other counties for Fulton and DeKalb indigent residents’ use of their hospital facilities.

“We all agree that Grady is an essential asset, but one which Fulton and DeKalb cannot save alone,” Commissioner Jeff Rader (District 2) said.

Commissioners also appeared apprehensive on the idea of backing a $100 million line of credit to Grady. Previously, some private lenders have said they would provide a $100 million loan on the condition Fulton and/or DeKalb back that loan.

“If Grady were to get $100 million, they need somebody to make sure the debt is paid,” Jones said. “How are you going to pay that back? We can’t put taxpayers on line to pay that back.”

“A line of credit is not going to save Grady,” Commissioner Burrell Ellis (District 4) said flatly. “No lender is going to give money if you can’t pay it back. Additional debt isn’t the answer. Grady needs a constant funding stream.”

One resolution calls for legislation from the General Assembly that would allow the Grady governing board to use its real estate as collateral for loans or lines of credit provided to the governing board by private lending institutions.

This would prevent the taxpayers of Fulton and DeKalb from having the burden of paying back a loan in case Grady could not pay it back, which Commissioners speculated would likely be the case.

The Board is also interested in the creation of a regional governing board that would limit representation to any local governments or entities who contribute funding to Grady on an annual basis. The representation would be based on how much each government or entity pays.

Commissioner Lee May (District 5) said if others want a say in how Grady is governed, then they should “pay to play” and called this governing model “a real alternative.”

The Grady governing board decided Monday to create a committee to study, for 60 days, a non-profit, corporate governing structure, a recommendation made by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Greater Grady Task Force.

The Commissioners did not address this development nor speak about a nonprofit governing model during the Tuesday meeting.

Another resolution calls for changes to agreements between Grady and the medical schools of Emory and Morehouse that would lower payments made by Grady to those institutions because of the benefits those schools receive by using the hospital as a training ground for medical students.

Critics complain that these agreements force Grady to pay too much money to those medical schools. Emory maintains it is losing, not making, money from their partnership with Grady.

The Board hopes to finally take action on all eight resolutions at the next regular meeting on October 09, 2007.

About the author:

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

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