Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

$100 Million Infusion for Hospitals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

$100 Million Infusion for Hospitals

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- The state community health board voted yesterday to make good on Gov. Roy Barnes' promise to funnel $100 million into struggling public hospitals that tend to Georgia's poor.

The money will temporarily put big indigent care hospitals like the one at the Medical College of Georgia and Grady Memorial Hospital on firmer financial footing and provide a much-needed infusion of cash into troubled rural hospitals.

"This is a windfall, a bailout for a number of hospitals," said Francis Rossiter, a board member from Savannah.

The two biggest beneficiaries of the one-time grants are Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, which has been working to whittle down a deficit projected at more than $26 million, and MCG's hospital, which faces a $22 million shortfall this year.

Grady, the state's largest hospital, will get $52 million. MCG's hospital will get $12.9 million.

Third on the list is University Hospital in Augusta, which will receive $5.78 million.

The grants are going to public hospitals that have not been fully reimbursed for what they have spent on indigent care, state Community Health Commissioner Russ Toal said.

Using data on unreimbursed care for the past five fiscal years, the Department of Community Health declared 46 of the state's 90 public hospitals eligible for the money. Two hospitals decided to decline the money.

Toal said the grants, to be matched by another $64 million from the participating hospitals, will come from previously untapped federal funds available to the state's Indigent Care Trust Fund and through a budget transfer.

The trust fund is designed to help hospitals provide care to the poor. It is funded, in part, by contributions from public hospitals themselves and partly by federal dollars.

Combined with their own contributions, Toal said the 22 rural hospitals eligible for the grants will share $13.5 million.

While the money could help keep big facilities like MCG and Grady in or nearly in the black this year, many small-town hospitals have been on the critical list for years.

Some hospital officials have complained privately to the health agency about being left off the grants list. …

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