The McDuffie County Board of Commissioners voted to give McDuffie Regional Medical Center approximately half of its Special Local Option Sales Tax money over the next few months in an effort to help offset funding woes for indigent care. County officials hope that the payment - roughly $500,000 of the $1 million designated for the hospital - will be in the hands of hospital officials by July.
While the hospital originally requested approximately $250,000 from the county's reserve fund, Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said that that would have brought the fund to an unacceptable level according to previous audit reports.
"What (the hospital) was looking for was additional money over and beyond what was coming to them, and it was just not a wise move to dip into our reserves and do that because it puts us down around 15 percent, and we don't need to be there," he said.
Instead, County officials hope that the SPLOST payments -- funds which only can be used for capital needs and not as direct payments for indigent care -- will free up the money that was assigned for capital so it can be used to address the indigent care funding shortage.
"The bottom line is that it does help their bottom line," said McDuffie County Manager Don Norton.
But hospital officials didn't quite see it that way.
"While it accelerates the SPLOST payments to the hospital that the voters voted back in September for capital purchases, it still does not speak to indigent care funding, and while it will to offset, we hope, the loss for the year to the hospital's bottom line, it does not address bottom line," said MRMC CEO Doug Keir.
Mr. Keir went on to say that the idea of offsetting the indigent care problem with capital-only designated funds isn't as easy as it sounds. "It's different than the way they've put that," he said, referring to county commissioners.
If there's one thing the county and the hospital do agree on, it's that further funds will be needed to deal with future funding shortages as they arise. Both Mr. Keir and Mr. Newton said that they'd probably be meeting later this year when both the hospital and county will be preparing their respective budgets.