Mayor’s office under fire for proposal to close hospital - WSMV News 4

Mayor’s office under fire for proposal to close hospital

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Mayor’s Office is under fire and the gloves are coming off about a proposal to reduce patient care at a Nashville hospital with a tradition of serving the poor.

The proposal is causing friction between the mayor and some Metro Council members.

“I don’t trust what they say,” said Metro Councilman Steve Glover. “I need answers.”

A surprise announcement from the Mayor Megan Barry administration to end inpatient care at Metro’s charity hospital, Meharry General, has created a firestorm.

The news blindsided community leaders, even the hospital’s board, and it’s exposing a growing rift between Barry and Council members.

“I am so disgusted with the way we’re treated, I cannot stand it and so I am not backing down,” said Glover.

Barry said too many of Meharry’s hospital beds stay empty. There are often less than 30 patients a day at the facility.

“We have 140 beds over there. It’s not an efficient way to treat folks,” said Barry.

The hospital is asking for a $55 million supplement.

Glover and others are asking how much the city would have to pay to treat those patients somewhere else.

“I am an advocate for the taxpayers. That’s what I am and what I always will be,” said Glover. “And right now, this deal stinks.”

“People are not happy about this,” said Rev. Enoch Fuzz, who serves on the Nashville General Hospital Foundation Board. “It’s very irresponsible towards our city. People can’t wrap their minds around what’s going on.”

Fuzz said the people he’s hearing from are suspicious and don’t trust the process.

“We’ve been seeing a series of things from the community where it seems that decisions are made behind closed doors ... under the table, backroom deals," said Fuzz.

A stakeholders’ group has been given six months to come up with a way to transition the hospital to an outpatient clinic.

“Why would you take six months to make a decision about whether to keep our safety-net hospital?” said Fuzz. “What does that do to the morale and the mindset of the people who work at the hospital?”

Some say the question the city should ask is not how to close the hospital for inpatients, but why would you? Meharry accepts everyone, even those who can’t pay.

“There are people who will not be cared for at the level they need to be cared for without Metro General, without a safety-net hospital,” said Rev. Jay Voorhees, a Methodist minister. “Within the administration, I think it’s been seen as just a negative or a drain - it’s just a problem, so let’s get rid of it.”

Glover won’t support the closing of Meharry General until he knows what the true cost will be.

“The administration is completely disconnected from what a lot of the city is thinking and feeling,” said Glover.

Glover and other councilmembers have been speaking out, saying the Mayor’s office has been bypassing the Council on important decisions, such as giving private developers Greer Stadium, demolishing parts of the fairgrounds for a soccer stadium and closing a hospital with a long tradition in Nashville.

“There is no respect from the Mayor’s office. None,” said Glover. “They think they can just walk into Council chambers and say this is what we’re doing. Like I’m a lap dog. I am not a lap dog.”

“It is complicated. They’ve got a whole agenda that they’re trying to do. We’ve got stuff that we’re working on,” said Barry. “We absolutely try to come together and work as best we can.”

There’s still a lot not known about the proposal to close the hospital.

Where do patients go for charity care? How much does the city pay? Does the hospital give up state and federal funds?

The Barry administration said those are questions for the new stakeholder work team.

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