Nashville’s General Hospital Considering Cuts While Still Pushing For Millions More In Funding

May 30, 2017

Nashville’s General Hospital — the city-subsidized “safety net” hospital for low-income patients — is considering cuts to services. But its leaders are also appealing to the Metro Council for more funding.

Lately, the hospital’s budget hearings have been frank and intense — as the hospital goes through rounds of hardships and pleas for money. This year, the hearing with the council lasted more than two hours — longer than any Metro agency other than the much larger Metro Schools.

What’s at play this year departs from the recent rocky cycle for General Hospital. Typically, the hospital has received about $35 million from Metro and then scrambled to request millions more later in the year.

But this time, as first reported by The Tennessean, hospital leaders started by asking for what they consider to be the right amount: $55 million. Mayor Megan Barry has allotted $35 million.

It’s this gap that has hospital leaders discussing cuts, like in exchanges between Councilman Bob Mendes and hospital CEO Joseph Webb.

Mendes asked whether the hospital can maintain its service level, and Webb’s answer was a flat, “No.”

“What’s the plan?” Mendes continued. “Cut services? Cut people?”

“Of course, you’re not going to be able to run the scope of services that we have,” Webb replied.

Mendes said he actually feels some guilt at having previously encouraged Metro General to be honest in its budgetary request, only to have its leaders again requesting more.

“The fact remains, there’s a big gap between what I think it will take to run the facility and what’s being allocated,” Mendes said.

Others on the council peppered hospital leadership with questions. To some, there’s confusion as to how Metro General ended up in its current financial situation. Others drilled down into the specific staffing and technology challenges that could depend on the funding amount.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that council members say they’re finally hearing honest accounting of the hospital’s needs.

And Metro Hospital Authority Chairwoman Jan Brandes is still appealing to the sympathetic ears on the council.

“If there is any money you can see fit to give us, we will take it and we will continue our efforts to be completely transparent,” she said.

There wasn’t a specific commitment at the hearing, although Councilwoman Erica Gilmore said she felt greater transparency from the hospital than in her 9 years on council, and said the group would, “do our best to find some dollars.”

The finalized budget will be ready and up for vote in the next month.