Monday, January 25, 2010

Who needs political consultants when journalists can do the dirty work for free?

Jay Voorhees parries columnist Gail Kerr's recent swipe at Metro's services to the poor as well as her play of the race card when class was the suit laid:
It’s the last sentence that really bothered me, the one about the hospital being “money losing” and implying that the only support for the institution in by the Black Caucus. Yes, the hospital is running at a deficit this year, but it is a deficit that Rich Riebeling approved. The hospital has worked hard during the past four years to become as efficient as possible. When they mayor demanded a 10% cut in the hospital subsidy last year, the hospital informed the mayor’s office that they could not meet that target without cutting services, such as the outpatient cancer chemo clinic, which is the last line of treatment for the poor who have cancer. The mayor’s office did not want to be accused of harming poor people, so the hospital was told to leave the $1.5 million dollar deficit in the budget, and that they would deal with the shortfall later in the year through other means. This year, the hospital is in better financial shape than it’s been in for many years, however their budgeting was on the money and they are still projected to have a $1.5 million deficit, mainly because we as a city would not adequately fund the health care needs of the poor. The big problem facing the hospital, a problem that you have never addressed, is the $10 million dollars in TennCare cuts facing Metro General and the $25 million in TennCare reserves due to the hospital that are not being shared by the governor. Yeah, Metro General has huge problems ahead, but they aren’t of their own making.

As for the support for Metro General, I think the 70 plus pastors, imams, and rabbis from throughout Nashville who signed a letter of support for the hospital would be surprised to learn that the black caucus was the only supporting agency. I think the 200 folks who gathered on the steps of the Metro Courthouse would likewise be surprised, as would the members of SEIU who have a personal interest in the well being of the hospital.

Gail, Gail, Gail… it’s hard to understand why you seem to want to come after the hospital. Could it be that poor folks don’t buy your paper? Or maybe there are folks in the administration that have an ax to grind with certain community leaders who have pushed hard against the administrations ambivalence toward the need for a city supported (not run) safety net hospital, and have sold you a bill of goods.
The timing of Ms. Kerr's comment relative to upcoming budget discussions is suspicious given that a couple of months ago she bayed about former Parks Director Roy Wilson while the Mayor's Office started turning the screws leading to Mr. Wilson's December 31 exit. One wonders what Rich Riebeling has in store for this North Nashville Metro health service.

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