Cutting hospital funding was tough decision, but needed to be done

Published 9:29 am Friday, June 22, 2012

With the Decatur County Board of Commissioners facing a projected $1.5 million deficit in its upcoming budget year, the county has had to make some difficult decisions in order to bring the proposed budget closer into balance.

Some of those tough decisions were made Thursday during a called work session, when the board came to a consensus to cut funding to several agencies in the categories of “health, welfare and recreation.”

The cuts amount to $479,462 in savings to the county, with the bulk of those savings coming from a funding cut to the Memorial Hospital. The commission tentatively agreed to take the hospital’s 0.3 mills of ad valorem tax (approximately $250,000) and put those mills back in the general fund. The hospital has used this money to help pay for indigent health care, which is health services provided to those who have no health insurance or no feasible way to pay.

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CEO Billy Walker remarked that the hospital spends more than $8 million each year on indigent care, and that is certainly admirable. Walker said that the hospital will likely need to occasionally turn away non-emergency indigent patients, now that it looks like the funding will be cut.

While we agree it is unfortunate that some patients may be turned away, this was a move that had to be made in order to improve the county’s situation. We hope that the county will consider returning the funding when its financial state improves.