By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — Metro Council voted Tuesday for an additional $16 million to Metro General Hospital, increasing city support to $50 million.
“We need to take care of the people in this city who deserve to have good health care and Metro General is that place,” said Councilman Edward Kindall.
At-Large Councilman John Cooper predicted approval, but at least two other councilmen were dismayed that $16 million are in addition to $10 million authorized last year after the current budget began July 1.
That was “stabilization money to keep them afloat,” Kindell said, “but I think, you know, we give money to developers…”
Local governments grant property tax breaks to businesses throughout the state. Examples range from a deal for a fast food restaurant in Lewisburg to Rutherford County’s contract with Nissan for its factory in Smyrna when construction was starting.
“This is something that’s necessary in the city,” Kindell said of the hospital’s additional funding. “And of course they’re going to have to come to us and let us know exactly what they’re going to do with the money… how it’s going to sustain the hospital.
“If they do that, we need to fund it,” he said.
Other council members encouraged people to go to the city’s web site and watch video of two meetings with extensive discussion on the $16 million.
Councilman DeCosta Hastings is “very proud” of what the hospital has been doing. But, Hastings said, council members should get information requested about the hospital.
Also supporting the request is Councilman Scott Davis who “grew up” with the hospital for his medical care.
He remembers a slogan used by the hospital’s predecessor, Hubbard Hospital, and its partner, Meharry Medical College: When Nashville needs care, Meharry and Hubbard are there.
“They have to do a lot with less,” Davis said, recalling the partnership has hardly ever been adequately funded.
The Megan Barry and Karl Dean administrations “have wrapped their arms around this hospital,” he said.
Steps have been taken to address financial and leadership issues.
“We’ve reconfigured the hospital authority board. There have been on-going meetings with Metro finance, but the fact that we are now, not at a $10 million supplemental, but a $16 million on top of an already $10 million [addition beyond what was budgeted for this fiscal year] is really alarming… These were both emergency supplementals,” Councilman Freddie O’Connell said. “This is going to make $26 million in additional funding for the hospital” since this fiscal year’s budget started on July 1.
The hospital’s “total expense budget is approximately $101 million, a hospital spokesperson said last week. “The metro subsidy makes up approximately 35 percent of total expenses.”
Undecided whether privatization is appropriate for Metro General, Councilman Nick Leonardo pointed out that Bordeaux Hospital — it’s a city-owned rehabilitation and long-term care facility — has a management contract.
Privatizing Metro General has been studied.
“It’s responsible and appropriate for Metro to be in this business” of running a county hospital, said O’Connell, who wants more information on the financial shortfall.
The $16 million request was recommended by two committees, so it was on the consent agenda but only one council member can stop automatic approval and discussion was heard.
Councilman Jeremy Elrod said recurring requests for funding wears out good will toward the hospital and someday there will be a “lack of political will” to support the hospital.
At-Large Councilman Bob Mendes’ day job is to reorganize companies in distress. He complimented the “new, strong, working board,” and contrasted it with what might have appeared to be a “rubber stamp” board, but the hospital faces “extremely serious” issues.