The precarious finances of Nashville General Hospital have made the safety-net facility even more expensive to run. Administrators are asking the city for a targeted investment of tax dollars to cut down on some recurring costs.
It's not unusual for hospitals to lease expensive equipment rather than buying it, but typically not furniture. General Hospital chief financial officer Bruce Naremore said operating each year with no money to spare has resulted in extreme cases.
"We're renting hospital beds for $400 a month that cost about $8,000 to purchase. And I don't think that's a wise spend of money when we could purchase them outright," he said in last week's budget hearing with Mayor David Briley.
Naremore said the hospital is also renting routine IV pumps for each hospital room, even though they could be bought for what they cost to rent over just a year or two.
Personnel has also become more expensive, even as a batch of employees left during the last few months when the city was considering closure. Instead of saving on all those salaries, nurses making $30 an hour had to be replaced by temporary contract nurses who cost $60 an hour. And the remaining staff was offered retention bonuses not to leave.
The hospital is arguing that a small surge in capitol spending and a realistic operational budget could make the facility a bit less reliant on taxpayers in future years.
Nashville General Hospital got a favorable reception to its operating budget request of nearly $47 million this week. Briley discouraged former Mayor Megan Barry from closing the facility and said the hospital will stay open.
"Know that there is a commitment to the hospital, but know that the commitment is going to come with intense expectations," Briley said.
Briley said he wants to see an improved relationship with Meharry Medical College, which leases the building to the city and provides most of the physicians. Currently, the hospital and the school are hammering out a new staffing contract. The relationship has been tense in recent years as General Hospital fell behind on its lease.
The $47 million subsidy would be more than Mayor Barry put in her annual budgets. But General Hospital also had to come back for supplemental funding.