The CEO of Nashville General Hospital at Meharry told Metro Council members Thursday that even with a series of cost-cutting measures, the facility still will remain about $1.5 million short for the next fiscal year.
“Our first goal is to create revenue and if we can’t create revenue, we have to figure out…what other cuts that would have to be made,” Dr. Reginald Coopwood, who heads the facility and the Hospital Authority, told them during a budget hearing.
Coopwood would not say where service cuts might come from, but he did say the Hospital Authority would wait to see if revenue could be increased to make up for the shortfall. Earlier, Coopwood told Mayor Karl Dean’s office that they may have to cut oncology and cardiology, but Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling reported earlier this week that the hospital should have enough money to operate through next year.
“With some of the efficiencies they’re putting in next year, I think they can get through another year, or most of next year without any impact to their direct service,” Riebeling said.
The Hospital Authority, which governs Nashville General, the Bordeaux long-term care facility and the Knowles assisted-living facility, had a projected deficit of $4.3 million for this fiscal year before the mayor’s office proposed cutting the budget another $4.7 million beginning in July.
“Metro General cannot cut any more employees,” said At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard. “They risk the level of quality of services.”
Maynard’s worried that the hospital may have to cut services with no marked increase in revenue. Before the budget hearing, he, along with about 50 people, attended a rally in support of the hospital. Many were Meharry Medical College students who use the hospital as their teaching facility.
“There are already disparities in terms of diagnoses and treatments and things like that for cancer for the underserved,” said Oneica Poole, a first-year med student. “I think to cut the service at an institution that’s primarily providing service to that community would only aggravate that situation.”
Part of achieving cost savings will take the passage two pieces of legislation from the Metro Council, Coopwood said.
One will change what qualifies as 40 hours before overtime kicks in and the other will require all new Hospital Authority employees to go into a defined-contribution benefit plan. Coopwood said these two modifications would bring the hospital in line with industry standards.
Gradually increasing the number of paying patients coming into the hospital has been key to Coopwood’s strategy of improving revenues at the facility.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last four years [that] I’ve been in this position and it’s just good to see it…start to come to fruition,” he said.
Improvement began with quality fixes, Coopwood said, such as removing co-pays for Metro employees. That’s brought in about 600 employees.
And a new agreement with a company leasing space in the Bordeaux facility for patients on chronic ventilators could bring in additional revenue, he said. The contract is part of the fallout from the TennCare managed-care companies reducing private-duty nursing services, and putting those patients requiring near-24-hour-a-day care in a long-term care facility.