Nashville’s mayor Megan Barry says Nashville’s only indigent care, safety net hospital will wind down inpatient services, and soon, inpatient care at Nashville General hospital won’t be available.
Barry said her administration would submit to the Metro Council a “substantial request” for funds to stabilize the facility until the end of the fiscal year. Thereafter, Barry said, she would focus her efforts on transforming the facility into an ambulatory surgical care center, which would provide only outpatient services.
She also intends to pursue the creation of an indigent care fund to pay for hospitalization costs for low-income Nashvillians at privately run hospitals in the city. Barry said competition has kept patients away from Nashville General, while its costs have skyrocketed.
“Since 2005, Metro has provided more than half a billion dollars to support the operations of Nashville General,” a letter from Barry to members of the Metro Council said. “I believe we can invest our resources more strategically to provide for the healthcare needs of our city’s indigent population, while maintaining operations at Nashville General Hospital.”
The announcement took many Metro Council members and employees by surprise. Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher, who chairs the Metro Council’s budget and finance committee, said she had more questions than answers about Barry’s proposal.
“We want to build soccer stadiums and give tax breaks to billionaires,” she said. “We just need to decide if we’re going to have that same commitment to our most neediest in the city. I’m not passing judgment or anything like that, because I really want to wait to see the details.”
The transition to an outpatient-only facility will require approval from the Metro Council, the Nashville Hospital Authority and Meharry Medical College, Barry spokesman Sean Braisted said.
DeCosta Hastings, who is the vice chair of the Metro Council’s health and hospitals committee, said he cannot support a plan that includes ending inpatient care at General Hospital. Hastings said the reaction to Barry’s announcement was a mixture of “surprise and anger.”
“Our state is already having issues with health care,” Hastings said. “Our constituents elected us to speak for and work for them, and health care is a big thing. We’ve got to fix this system.”
Vercher said she wanted details about the indigent fund, how much would go in, who will decide how the money is spent and what would happen if money runs out. Vercher also questioned how much money will be allotted this fiscal year for the hospital and what any deal would mean for the hospital authority operating budget in the future
Barry also plans to create an indigent care fund for Nashville General patients to receive care there or elsewhere.