Fulton County Consents to Grady Hospital Lease Agreement

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(APN) ATLANTA — The Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Wednesday, February 20, 2008, consenting to the lease and transfer agreement by and between the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) and the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation.

The lease, approved by the FDHA in January 2008, would hand daily operations of Grady over to a 501(c)(3) led by community and business leaders. As Atlanta Progressive News previously reported, the lease was approved even though a number of conditions set by the FDHA in their original privatization resolution have not been met.

Fulton County’s approval brings the process one step closer to completion. The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will vote next week.

Both counties would have to approve the lease in order for it to go forward because each has bond agreements with Grady, providing about $100 million annually.

Fulton Commissioners spent one hour Wednesday debating the lease, which they had only received in the last 24 hours.

“There is not one CEO who would move forward with a 40 year lease with as little information as we have in front of us today,” Commissioner Robb Pitts said.

Despite this statement, Pitts voted to approve the agreement anyway, along with fellow commissioners John Eaves, Tom Lowe, Nancy Boxill, and Lynne Riley.

Commissioners Emma Darnell and Bill Edwards voted no.

Darnell made up her mind before Wednesday’s meeting, releasing a statement Tuesday explaining her decision.

“We are legally and morally required to provide oversight to the standard of care and the cost of health services at Grady,” she said.  “We cannot delegate to a private group no matter how well-intentioned the authority and responsibility to decide who lives and who dies at Grady.”

Darnell added Wednesday the need for the State to provide regional Grady funding that includes all Georgia counties whose residents receive primary care at the hospital.

State leaders and anonymous members of Atlanta’s business community have promised to deliver millions of dollars in relief to Grady on the condition the hospital transfer its power to a private, nonprofit corporation.

According to proponents of privatization, business leaders have said that they will also undertake a best efforts campaign to raise even more money for Grady upon the change.

Despite these promises, it is unclear if anyone will truly follow through, a point made by Pitts Wednesday.

“You can call a press conference saying you’re going to raise $100 million and not raise a dime,” he said.

The Georgia General Assembly is considering a number of bills on Grady this session, including HB 973, the “Georgia Trauma Hospital Support Act of 2008.”

That bill would levy a small telephone tax on all Georgians and that money would be used to fund a statewide trauma network.

But State leaders are growing impatient as the process drags on and political pressure is growing.

Fulton’s vote comes one day after State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) introduced a bill that would force Grady to make the change to a nonprofit management structure.

Jacobs’s bill would authorize a citizen or the State Attorney General to take legal action to force the change. In addition, it also threatens to remove the FDHA and take away trauma care funding.

DeKalb County Commissioners Larry Johnson and Connie Stokes will attend a public information meeting Thursday to discuss the proposed lease. All members of the public are invited to attend the meeting at the Manuel Maloof Auditorium in Decatur at 6:30 p.m.

DeKalb will most likely vote on the agreement at its next meeting on February 26, 2008.

About the author:

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

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