GMHC, FDHA Approve Grady 2009 Budget


(APN) ATLANTA — The Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority (FDHA) unanimously approved the 2009 budget for the Grady Health System on Monday, 11 days after the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC) did the same.

Due to the fact that Fulton and DeKalb Counties provide annual funding to Grady, both County Commissions have to sign off on the budget before it can take effect.

Fulton is projected to send Grady $68 million in 2009, up slightly from their 2008 total, while DeKalb is set to send $32 million, nearly twice their contribution from this year, for a $100 million total.

“If the counties provide us this much funding, the [GMHC] is set to break just about even,” Grady CFO Michael Ayres said Monday.

Since taking over this summer, Grady CEO Michael Young has sought to streamline Grady’s operations in order to serve more patients more effectively, in turn bringing more money to the cash-strapped institution and improving its credibility.

“I see an incredible step up [so far],” Young said during the Nov. 13 GMHC meeting. “People are doing things they’ve never done before and they’re doing them effectively…I’m slightly excited about where we are.”

Officials are hoping the budget will increase the number of visiting patients to the health system, including Grady Memorial Hospital, stabilize the payer mix (perhaps even lure more paying patients), control cost growth, improve patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, and improve overall financial performance.

The new budget projects the health system to lose about $5 million total for 2009, which would be a significant decrease from the overall projected losses in 2008.

With an influx of $50 million this year, the first of several installments from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, officials are purchasing new medical equipment that should streamline and improve patient care at Grady.

Officials have already put $20 million worth of modern digital imaging equipment on order. The first major installation, a cardiac catheterization laboratory, should be operational in January.

In addition to a slightly optimistic 2009 financial outlook, Grady officials are also still celebrating The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval bestowed upon the health system earlier this month.

“The results of The Joint Commission survey are proof positive of the new Grady doing it right, doing it effectively, and doing it in the spirit of community leading to the provision of the best quality care for its patients,” Young said in a statement earlier this month. “Full accreditation from The Joint Commission is validation for us that our on-going efforts to meet and exceed national health care and patient safety goals have been successful.”

Officials are hoping to use this good news as a springboard for better days in 2009.

Another key component of Young’s streamlining effort will be to convert all Grady medical records to digital storage. During the November 13, 2008, GMHC meeting, Young announced he hopes to convert all medical records to a digital format and create a paperless registration system by June 1, 2009.

While Grady will receive its annual money from Fulton and DeKalb Counties, it is still unclear if officials will undertake a fresh campaign to lobby the Georgia General Assembly or other Metro Atlanta counties for additional, sustained funding.

But they are confident in their ability to raise millions on their own next year. GMHC member Tom Bell reported November 13 that the GMHC expects to raise $125-150 million in major gifts from large donors (75 percent) as well as smaller donations through the community (25 percent).

The GMHC pledged, as part of the power transfer from the FDHA to the GHMC earlier this year, to raise at least $100 million over three years.

Bell said he, Young, and GMHC chair Pete Correll have made numerous phone calls to donors and have 46 interested parties. Officials are in the “pre-campaign phase,” making calls and sending information through the mail to potential donors.

The campaign officially kicks off the second week of January, Bell said, but hopes to be able to “announce significant gifts by the end of the year.”

“We’re going to need an inordinate amount of community support for the next two or three years until we get where we want to be,” Correll said Nov. 13.

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