Grady Hospital Board Ratifies Updated Lease

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(APN) ATLANTA — The Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) ratified the revised lease agreement March 1, 2008, that will transfer power from the Board to the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC), a new 501(c)(3).

The FDHA, which approved a slightly different version of the lease on January 28, 2008, decided it would be best to sign off on the updated version approved in the last two weeks by the Fulton and DeKalb County Boards of Commissioners.

“Fulton County wants us to approve this lease again even though changes aren’t substantial,” Lewis Horne, a Troutman Sanders attorney working for the FDHA, said.

When Fulton approved a resolution February 20, 2008, consenting to the lease, there was a requirement the FDHA approve the lease again no later than 10 days. March 1 happened to be the end of those 10 days.

The March 1, 2008, meeting was scheduled to take place on March 3, but attorneys for the FDHA decided at the last minute to move the meeting up.

The Board was using “an abundance of caution” by approving the lease on March 1, Horne said. He went through the changes made by the Counties and laid out what has to happen before the lease can take effect.

It will be necessary for the business community and the State to send the FDHA “firm written commitments” of their intent to provide new funds for Grady before the lease is executed, Horne said.

The business community is said to have promised to give Grady $50 million upon the transfer of power followed by $150 million over three years.

The identity of the donor remains a mystery.

Business leaders are also said to have promised to undertake a “best efforts” campaign to raise an additional $100 million over three years and the State is considering legislation that would send the hospital additional funds.

“The lease does not go into effect until financial obligations are met,” FDHA member Thomas Dortch said. “Nothing is complete until all the obligations are met.”

The way the FDHA conducts its business with the public is doing nothing to boost the public’s confidence in the entire process.

“I would take issue with anyone who says this meeting is underhanded because it’s not,” FDHA Member Michael Hollis said March 1, 2008.

The Board did not take great efforts to publish the meeting change, only posting a small bulletin in Grady’s Steiner Auditorium two days in advance.

The March 1, 2008, meeting did not start well, either. The FDHA decided to hold the meeting in its small boardroom at Grady, leaving several in attendance without a place to sit.

There were also no copies of the lease for the public to view in advance. It was only halfway through the meeting when everyone in attendance obtained a copy.

The meeting started 15 minutes late and no one on the Board had microphones to speak into, making it difficult for everyone to hear what was being said.

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), member of the Grady Coalition, asked for 15 minutes for the public to comment and ask questions before the vote.

FDHA Chairwoman Pam Stephenson allowed this but Board Members looked inattentive and irritated throughout.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST ISSUES

The FDHA has yet to name any members to the GMHC but it should be interesting to see how they reconcile differences in a provision in the GMHC bylaws and a bill under consideration at the Georgia General Assembly.

The Georgia State Senate passed SB 353 on Febuary 21, 2008, that “provides that certain individuals shall not serve on a hospital authority board or a nonprofit organization managing a hospital on behalf of a hospital authority.”

“No individual shall be eligible to serve in a governing capacity of a public hospital if that individual or any immediate family member of such individual is an employee or contractor of the public hospital or an employee, director, or contractor of a major vendor of the public hospital,” the bill states.

Fort added an amendment that takes it one step further. “No individual shall be eligible to serve in a governing capacity of a public hospital if that individual is an employee or director of or has a financial interest in a competitor of the public hospital.”

Fort noted March 1, 2008, ambiguous language in the new GMHC bylaws that is in contrast to the language of SB 353: “A financial interest is not necessarily a conflict of interest.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper noted February 21, 2008, that Fort’s amendment is describing Cousins Properties CEO Tom Bell, even though the amendment does not name anyone specifically.

Cousins Properties, with partner Emory University, owns 50 percent of the Emory Crawford Long Medical Office Tower, according to cousinsproperties.com.

While it is unknown if Bell is under consideration to possibly serve on the new 501(c)(3), it appears he would be allowed to do so under the GMHC bylaws.

If SB 353 becomes law, it would likely take precedence over GMHC bylaws, preventing certain individuals, like Bell, from serving on the 501(c)(3).

About the author:

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

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