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Hospital looks to slice into fund request

 

Members of the Screven County Hospital Authority agreed to look for ways to cut their request for funds from the county, during a workshop with commissioners Tuesday night.

“We know that you’re in a spot,” said George St. George, chief executive officer of the hospital. “If maybe we can do with a little less, we’ll take a look.”

St. George said the authority will consider possible cuts its next meeting, which is scheduled for tonight. County commissioners are in the final stages of drafting their budget and asked the authority to hurry with its recommendations.

Commissioners are struggling to meet a budget deficit of between $500,000 and $800,000. They are considering such measures as furloughing county employees for one day each month for a year, which would save $180,000 annually.

“Before we cut (furlough) our employees, I’d like to see everyone else downsize,” said Commissioner J.C. Warren, who had suggested cutting as much as $100,000 from the hospital.

This year, the hospital is getting about $800,000 from the county and in preliminary budget negotiations for next year, was slated to get the same amount.

Five of the seven county commissioners attended the workshop; Dennis Lawton and Gary Crews were absent. About 30 people attended the meeting, which was held in the hospital dining room and lasted for an hour and 40 minutes.

Both sides agreed that the hospital is vital to the community and that no one wants to close it.

“I’m after the real figures to keep the hospital going,” said Commissioner Gregg Ellison. “I’m not willing to give you $800,000 if it’s not necessary.”

St. George said the hospital’s budget numbers are audited using federal accounting standards. “There’s no smoke and mirrors to our numbers,” he said. “We’re not making a profit on the backs of the taxpayers of this community.”

He said the hospital had $1.7 million in uncompensated care last year. That amount will grow as unemployment continues to rise, he said.

St. George said nearly 350 people have lost jobs in the county recently, including 240 at Timken and 100 at Sylvania Yarn Systems. He also said the hospital expects further cuts in federal funds.

But he said federal payment reform eventually may help the hospital’s financial situation. “There’s a very high probability that there will be some sort of payment reform out of Washington,” St. George said, enabling “everyone who’s uninsured to have insurance coverage. A lot if not all of this subsidy (from the county) may go away.”