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Bibb County may cut funds for indigent care at hospital | News

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Bibb County may cut funds for indigent care at hospital
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A Macon-Bibb committee approved an amended budget Tuesday that includes slashing its half-million dollar contribution to indigent care at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

This is the first-ever budget for the newly consolidated government.

Andrew Galloway, external counsel for MCCG and former senior Vice President of thirty years, called the budget cuts "draconian."

"I am shocked and appalled the county would even consider cutting indigent care funds."

Galloway says, "The minimum [500,000] was little enough. To propose to eliminate all funding is just unconscionable. This is a callous disregard of some of the most urgent and needy patients."

In fiscal 2007, the county gave the Medical Center more than $4 million for indigent care.

That number dropped annually to $500,000 last fiscal year to a proposed zero in fiscal 2015.

Galloway says Macon-Bibb needs to be a responsible partner in community care.

"Having provided services to Bibb County's indigent patients, we presented them with a bill and a demand for payment. We're not asking for funding. We're asking you to pay your bill!" Galloway said.

He says in Peach County for a 25-bed hospital, the county gives $435,000 for indigent care. "And so Bibb County saying they can do nothing is shocking and appalling."

He says he can't say exactly how this will affect patients yet, but that the hospital will have to consider cutting some services for indigent care. Reallocating hospital funds for indigent care from other areas could mean the average patient would also see the funding cut effects.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger says, "There's just not enough money to go around."

"I think we had a lot of the nine commissioners that really weren't tied very closely to that and didn't really feel as attached to that money as some of the other line items," Commissioner Gary Bechtel said.

Several community groups presented their concerns at Tuesday night's public hearing, but Bechtel says he doesn't expect further changes to the budget.

But Commissioner Virgil Watkins, the only "no" vote in the 4-1 decision to drop indigent care funding from the budget, says the county should help shoulder the burden.

"In terms of what the Medical Center is doing, whether we give them a half million dollars or not, isn't really breaking the bank. But the symbolism of it, making it seem as though medical services aren't as important, I don't think that was a necessary cut," Watkins said.

According to the Medical Center's financial records, the hospital ended fiscal 2013 with a surplus of $21 million.

Some commissioners say the hospital can survive the cuts, while outside agencies, like the Tubman Museum, may not.

They plan to restore a half-million dollars cut earlier from the Tubman Museum, the Museum of Arts and Sciences and the Douglass Theatre.

The hospital is required by law to provide indigent care to patients.

The full commission is scheduled to take a final vote on that budget next week.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh and on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ.


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