Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Funding for Metro General Hospital

Yesterday I was very privileged to take a tour of Nashville's Metro General Hospital with several dozen other pastors. The tour was organized by my friend, Jay Voorhees, who has been leading the effort to get Nashville's Metro Council to fully fund the hospital so that they don't have to cut back on services for the uninsured. You can find out more about the cause at a website Jay has set up, Nashvillians for Metro General.

I went on this tour having mentally prepared myself to see some pretty heartbreaking stuff. As a pastor I've visited a number of health care facilities run by tax dollars, and it's never been a pretty sight. Whenever state and federal budgets get tight, these are the first places to lose funds since there is usually no one to fight for them in budget meetings. So publicly run health care facilities are often underfunded, understaffed, and the staff they do have are overworked and underpaid. Thus the quality of care is often very poor. Whenever I've needed hospital care I've been very fortunate to be able to choose a private hospital like Vanderbilt or Gateway, but that's only because I have very good health insurance.

I went to Metro General expecting to see what I've described above, so you can imagine I was blown away by what I saw. The hospital has clean, well maintained facilities and is staffed by people who were extremely friendly and very dedicated to their work. Most of the first floor is taken up by various clinics that offer free services for the uninsured: everything from mammograms to orthopedic care to cardiological services. They even have an infusion center where people can receive cancer treatments in comfortable, private spaces.

At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to hear from the administrators of Metro General. I was amazed to learn that their budget is a fraction of what a place like Vanderbilt has to work with, and yet the level of care is just as good. Even more amazing is that Metro General has no reserve funds and no line of credit, which is unheard of for a multi-million dollar organization.

If Metro General's funding is cut, it will have to seriously curtail and eliminate services it provides to the poor, homeless, and others who don't have adequate health insurance. The 47 million uninsured people in this country have no access to preventative medicine other than free services such as the ones that are provided at Metro General. As a result, they end up in the emergency rooms of other hospitals once their conditions, which would have been treatable had they been diagnosed earlier, are beyond the point of no return. The free services offered by Metro General save thousands of lives every year. To cut the funding would ensure that these services would be eliminated, effectively sentencing thousands of people to early deaths. 

Adequately funding Metro General Hospital isn't just a nice thing to do if we can. It is a moral imperative.

I'm no longer a legal resident of Davidson County, so this blog is the biggest contribution I can make to the effort. To all Nashville residents who read this, please take a moment to send your council member an email and tell them not to cut Metro General's funding. You can do so quickly through the City Council's website. There is a rally at the Metro Courthouse at 4:30pm on Thursday, May 21, just before the budget hearing gets underway. Please come if you can to support health care for Nashville's uninsured through Metro General Hospital.

1 comment:

Bradford said...

I know I'm commenting a little late on this one, but I wholeheartedly applaud the blog Matt! I worked at the Elam Mental Health Center at Metro General for the past year as part of my degree program and I completely agree with you. This hospital has many dedicated people who work for much less then they can get elsewhere simply because they care. the lower socioeconomic status individuals make up a huge part of what makes our country great and simply because they can't afford outrageous health insurance prices they are often relegated to subpar hospitals. Metro General is a great hospital (one of the exceptions!), but it will not remain so if Nashvillians do not take care of it. It is our responsibility to care for those less fortunate than us and to not throw them out simply because we do not want to give a little more. It is our God-given right and responsibility to help the poor, so HELP THEM!!