ATLANTA — Grady Memorial Hospital officials fear some programs for the mentally ill and poor people could be devastated if Fulton County cuts $25 million in funding next year.
The hospital already faces steep federal and state budget cuts. The federal government is expected to cut the hospital’s funding to treat the uninsured by about $45 million and another $24 million cut in Medicaid funding.
The collective reductions could have impacts on Grady’s ability to care for Atlanta’s poor and uninsured. The hospital, which is considered a “safety net” facility, spends about $200 million annually to care for poor and uninsured patients.
Grady CEO John Haupert told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the funding loss could result in job cuts, neighborhood clinics closing, increased co-pays, and limited access to specialty care.
“It’s concerning to me that the neediest in this community are the ones paying for budget shortfalls,” Haupert said, adding that many poor and uninsured people in the area would likely have to turn to county-funded clinics.
“I seriously doubt they could take on the volumes (of patients) we’re talking about,” he said.
More than 642,000 people visited Grady Memorial Hospital in 2012.
The county’s proposed 2014 budget is to be presented to commissioners Wednesday. Commission Chairman John Eaves said he hopes to restore Grady’s funding before the final budget is approved in January. He’s proposed a new property tax dedicated to the hospital.
“There’s a strong possibility that an alternative revenue source will be generated to make sure that cut does not occur,” he said.
However, state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) said he doesn’t think Fulton County can legally impose a new tax and said the county can get its budget balanced in other ways.
“There’s ample funds there,” Willard said. “Twenty-five million dollars is a mere drop in the bucket.”