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Study shows Georgia healthcare system not sustainable

Doug Keir has been making the claim for two years now. He says small Georgia hospitals won't be able to survive if something doesn't change.

A recent study released by Deloitte Consulting confirms the prognostications of McDuffie Regional Medical Center's CEO. Bruce Noyes, director of Deloitte presented the findings from the eight-month-long study at a press conference in Atlanta on Friday.

"The current economic model that is creating a continued erosion in hospital profitability is not a sustainable model," he said. "Ultimately, if this environment persists, hospitals will be unable to fund ... the capital investment requirements necessary to maintain the hospital infrastructure in a manner consistent with current operating levels or expectations."

The study shows that the growth rate of the state of Georgia coupled with an aging population will be too large a burden for hospitals to endure. While larger hospitals are feeling the pinch, Mr. Keir said smaller ones like MRMC are likely to be hit hardest.

"(The study) that has come out just further emphasizes that hospitals, particularly in our category, cannot continue to take the revenue cuts from Medicare and Medicade," Mr. Keir said. "And we're going to have to address indigent care in this state."

Mr. Keir summed up the results of the study by saying that healthcare in the near future will probably be less widely available.

"The bottom line to this is we're going to have higher demand, more uninsured, less revenue and a capital dollar crunch feeding to an aging facility," Mr. Keir said. "We'll have to limit our services. You're going to see hospitals close, and access to care by Georgians is going to be somewhat denied or restricted."

As indigent care costs continue to be an increasing burden, especially on local hospitals, Georgia Hospital Association officials said a decision should be made about who picks up the tab for those who can't pay for healthcare.

"Our society has to figure out how best to pay for it," said Don Faulk, Jr., GHA Chairman. "I would argue right now the property owners...are currently paying for it one way or another. If you are employed and have insurance, I can assure you, you are paying for that right now."

Economist Donald Ratajczak commented that dwindling reimbursements from the national and state levels are causing much of the problem.

He said the burden is then falling to "ill people with resources," which in rural areas are not in abundance.

"Medicare and Medicade reimbursements are not sufficient," Dr. Ratajczak said. "Basically if it costs you $1 for every 88 cents you can collect, filling up the hospital makes you broke rather than the reverse."

According to GHA President Joseph Parker, the study was commissioned because there are many signs that the healthcare system in Georgia is on a downward slide.

"Georgia hospitals are being forced to reduce services to their communities while physicians are retiring early or moving their practices to states that have stronger torte laws," Mr. Parker said. "The bottom line is that these are extremely difficult times for healthcare providers, and our future seems to contain more questions than answers."

Mr. Keir said there were no easy answers for MRMC to this long-developing problem, but he said the signs have been evident for quite some time.

"We've been singing this song and ... firing a shot across the bow of the boat for a long time now," he said.



Web posted on Thursday, November 4, 2004


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