Politics Bar State Aid to Regional, Stangler Says

By Robert Manor Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 18, 1997 | Go to article overview

Politics Bar State Aid to Regional, Stangler Says


Robert Manor Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It is politically impossible for Missouri state government to bail out St. Louis Regional Medical Center, the state's top health-care official said Thursday.

"If I spend money in St. Louis, I won't be able to show my face in the rest of the state," said Gary Stangler, director of the Department of Social Services.

Stangler said many hospitals around the state are struggling financially, and he sees no political support for subsidizing Regional while giving nothing to the others. Regional is running a $3.6 million deficit and has sent layoff notices to 400 of its 1,000 workers. Next month its board of directors will begin closing all but 10 of the beds at Regional's hospital at 5535 Delmar Boulevard. Regional's clinics and other services awill remain in service. Mayor Clarence Harmon wants Regional to stay open as a hospital, at least for a while. On Thursday, a judge denied the city's request for a temporary restraining order at this time to keep Regional in operation. Later this month, the city again will ask the courts to keep Regional in operation. Stangler said he has authority to increase an existing tax on hospitals to raise up to $40 million - far more than the $10 million to $15 million needed to keep Regional alive for another year. But he said Truman Medical Center in Kansas City was solvent because it received property taxes, a sign the community there wanted to care for indigent people. Regional used to get direct subsidies from St. Louis city and county, but that ended in the early 1990s. Around the state, many hospitals that care for the indigent are struggling, Stangler said. He said the state helped Regional for several years, but the hospital's board of directors never found a permanent source of money. "Each year we have been finding creative ways of getting money for Regional," he said. "They never did come to grips with the deficit." A consortium of area hospitals is working on a plan in which they would take over Regional's patients, then seek reimbursement from the state. …

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