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Grady Plans to Close Community Clinics, Fulton Opposes Closures
(APN) ATLANTA -- The Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC), the privatized, non-profit Board that took over management of Grady Hospital two years ago, has decided to close two community clinics, drawing the opposition of the Fulton County Commission and advocates, and heightening tensions between the County and the corporation.
Atlanta Progressive News warned, when Fulton and Dekalb were considering privatizing the management of Grady, that despite verbal promises to continue serving as an indigent care hospital, the counties were given no meaningful mechanisms to ensure the corporation keeps its promises.
Since then, Grady first considered greatly reducing indigent care, then backed off; it then closed a dialysis clinic, abandoning numerous patients to die, some of whom did die; now, it seeks to close neighborhood health clinics that people rely on to get health care in their neighborhoods because they lack transportation.
This month, Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell addressed her concerns about during the Commission meeting on Wednesday, April 06, 2011.
Darnell's resolution opposing the closure of two Neighborhood Health Centers of the Grady Health Systems passed five to two. Democrats John Eaves, Robb Pitts, Emma Darnell, Joan Garner, and Bill Edwards voted in favor, while Republicans Liz Hausmann and Tom Lowe opposed.
The resolution urged the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, the public body which technically still exists and which contracts with the private GMHC, to enforce its lease with the Grady corporation and keep the Otis W. Smith Health Center in southwest Atlanta and South DeKalb Health Center in Decatur open.
The commission thus went on record opposing the Grady corporation’s plan to close two neighborhood clinics to save 1.8 million dollars.
Darnell questioned the corporation's past track record over the past two and a half years.
"A high number of Grady executives are earning six-figure salaries, and that money spent on raises and consultant fees could have kept the clinics open," Darnell said in a statement obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
Darnell also believes other Metro Atlanta counties that depend on Grady for their healthcare should participate financially in funding Grady, and that Fulton and Dekalb should not be the only funding source for Grady.
”Closing the clinics would effect [sic] the healthcare of many disabled Fulton county residents that now use the facility," Darnell said. "No Fulton County resident should be denied access to quality health care because of race, age, ethnicity, or income.”
Dorothy Leone-Glasser, President of Advocates for Responsible Care, said in an interview that she is extremely concerned about the lack of healthcare if these clinics are both closed.
Most of the residents who use the facilities are disabled, and not able to get to Grady in the event that the clinics are closed, Leone-Glasser said.
Leone-Glasser questions the savings that Grady claims there will be once the clinics are shut down. "If the Otis clinic is shut down, because of transportation, the disabled residents will have to go to the emergency room at Grady, which will cost three to five times as much," she said.
Leone-Glasser is excited that the Board voted on recommending that the clinics stay open, and she is happy with the support and hard work from Darnell.
Leone-Glasser says that although the Board recommends that the clinics stay open, Grady is under no obligation to listen.
At this point, having passed the baton to the corporation, the only mechanisms to truly prevent the closure of the clinics would be to cancel the contract with the corporation, or to threaten to stop funding Grady. That latter option has not escaped the attention of Darnell and Leone-Glasser.
Leone-Glasser says that Fulton County has voted on requiring Grady to uphold their obligation to Fulton County residents, and that if they do not, Fulton County can refuse to fund Grady.
Leone-Glasser hopes that Dekalb County will go along with Fulton in insisting the clinics stay open.
In an Advocates for Responsible Care letter to Commissioners dated April 20th, 2011, Leone-Glasser states, "Grady defaulted on upholding their mission... 'to provide healthcare to indigent individuals and the sick or injured and to promote the general health and welfare of the citizens of the State of Georgia and surrounding areas.'”
Leone-Glasser tells the Commission that to date: "Grady has put the burden of their privatization, increased salaries, decreased services, and elimination of jobs on backs of the poor of Fulton and DeKalb counties."
In the case that Grady continues to fail to provide quality health care to the Fulton or Dekalb County residents, Leone-Glasser tells Fulton County they should "consider developing its own budget for [Grady] and use some of its present allocation toward a national health center in Georgia or making an alliance with a community center in Atlanta that would serve the needs of its poor and uninsured."
Leone-Glasser also helped organize a protest which was held at the Otis Smith Clinic.
Right now, the clinics are open, but for how long no one knows. Leone-Glasser is hopeful that Grady will not close the clinics, and that they will honor the Fulton County Commission's request, so that their funding will not be in jeopardy.
(END / 2011)
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