Grady Coalition Looks to Future, Vows to Keep Fighting

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(APN) ATLANTA — Even though the transfer of power between the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) and the new Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC) may appear to be a done deal, members of the Grady Coalition say they are going to keep fighting for Grady Hospital, its patients, and its workers.

“We are marathon runners and we’re not going to disappear,” Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church and leading figure in the Grady Coalition, said Thursday night, February 28, 2008.

About 50 citizens attended a Town Hall Meeting held by the Coalition Thursday night at Grady Hospital’s Steiner Auditorium to discuss what’s next in the fight to keep Grady alive and accountable to the public.

“We have to monitor them once we nail them down,” State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said of whoever will be the new Board Members of GMHC, which the FDHA and others could name soon.

Now that Fulton and DeKalb Counties have consented to the lease agreement transferring power from the FDHA to the GMHC, the Grady Coalition is turning its attention to make sure business leaders follow through on delivery of millions of dollars in funds to Grady that have allegedly been verbally promised in secret, and that State leaders follow through on possible funding which have raised as a possibility.

Upon execution of the lease, business leaders have allegedly promised to deliver to Grady $50 million followed by $150 million over the next three years. In addition, they are said to have promised to undertake a “best efforts” campaign to raise another $100 million over three years.

Many in attendance Thursday doubt anyone will follow through on delivering these funds.

“You won’t see $50 million in any lump sum at any time,” Jack Jersawitz said.

Fort outlined three “pots” of money the Georgia General Assembly is either considering expanding, revising, or creating this session.

First, Gov. Sonny Perdue has recommended budgeting $53 million for a Statewide Trauma Network with $7 million of that for Grady. Fort said the network really needs $180 million.

Second, the State Legislature is considering revising the Medicaid reimbursement formula so that Grady could receive an additional $7 or $8 million per year.

Third, the Indigent Care Trust Fund could receive an additional $5 or $6 million.

Overall, Fort said Grady could receive between $22 and $40 million from the State in addition to what has been budgeted for this year.

But he noted the State cut $60 million from Grady last year and even if Grady receives new funds from the State, it could still leave Grady between $15 and $25 million short of what it needs from the State.

“This is like getting robbed and then going back and asking back for what’s yours,” Fort said.

Fort introduced legislation this week that would levy a statewide half-cent sales tax. Those funds would be used to funds all public hospitals in Georgia.

“I don’t like to beg,” Fort said Thursday. “I don’t want to do this every year.”

As much as Grady needs the money, the Coalition emphasized the need to protect workers and patients by holding the new 501(c)(3) accountable.

“We cannot allow the patients to suffer because of greed, corruption, and a takeover,” McDonald said.

“People should not lose something in this transfer,” Nancy Lenk of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 1644, a union that represents Grady workers, said. “Privatization means often that work is contracted out.”

“We have to continue as a community to put our arms around Grady workers,” she added.

“It boils down to who is on that board,” Dr. Neal Schulman said. “If it’s only filled with yes people, then that is a great, great tragedy.”

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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