Metro Council Balks At Closure Of Cash-Strapped General Hospital | Nashville Public Radio

Metro Council Balks At Closure Of Cash-Strapped General Hospital

Jan 9, 2018

One of the Metro Council's most conservative members has joined the effort to keep Nashville General Hospital open, even if it means spending more money. Councilman Steve Glover is proposing a ban on closure of the city's safety-net facility.

No one has come out and said they want to completely shut down General Hospital. But Mayor Megan Barry has said it's time to transition away from inpatient care in an effort to make the facility less reliant on taxpayers.

"I don't think she has the authority to do it by herself anyway. But I'm just trying to clarify that," Glover said.

Glover's ordinance, filed with council member Erica Gilmore on Tuesday, would prevent any changes to the operating agreement with the city before mid-2019. He says his primary concern is the lack of transparency from the mayor's office in the restructuring effort and its track record in privatizing a city-owned assisted living and nursing home in recent years.

"Not only have they not gone great, they've gone poorly," he said, noting Metro's recent $3.8 million payment to Autumn Hills.

Key leaders within the Metro Council are also balking at plans for a major restructuring of General Hospital. The council's budget chair, Tanaka Vercher, walked away from a panel charged by the mayor to come up with a new business model, calling it merely an academic exercise. The group organized by Meharry Medical College* also includes Metro finance officials, representatives of the hospital and an HCA executive. They've  met once and are supposed to come up with a plan by early April.

"I am not confident that this group can come up with any kind of recommendation for the city as it relates to the administration's announcement about General Hospital," Vercher said, noting her own lack of health care expertise and the fact that the hospital's own CEO was not invited to participate.

The mayor currently has some leverage because General Hospital expects to run out of money at the end of the month. But, while the Barry administration has taken a skeptical view of a mid-year $20 million request, the council has the final say. Even councilman Glover, usually a hardliner on funding requests, says he can support the cash infusion.

Vercher says everyone involved has known the $20 million request was coming since last year, when the hospital requested $55 million for its operations but was only granted $35 million.

"We do this starve and beg approach," she said. "And then we want to act surprised when they're not succeeding. We've been setting them up for failure."

A spokesman for Mayor Barry calls Glover's ordinance "political grandstanding," saying the mayor always intended that any changes to General Hospital would require approval of the Metro Council or Hospital Authority.

"Councilman Glover didn’t bother to contact the administration before he contacted the media about his legislation," spokesman Sean Braisted said in an email. "We are reviewing more fully but it does not appear to actually do anything."

*This line has been updated for clarity.