The growing number of patients who can't pay their bills could force South Georgia Medical Center to ask local governments for help. Officials with Valdosta's non-profit hospital are hopeful state and federal funds will rebound so local taxpayers don't have to fill the gap.
Unlike most public, non-profit hospitals in the U.S., South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta gets no real funding from local governments, but with support dwindling from the state and federal levels, hospital executives are warning local leaders they may need help from local taxpayers.
James McGahee, Executive, SGMC, says, "If the economy improves and the state and federal budgets improve, the funds trickle down and we see better reimbursement to the hospital, then I would think we'd be able to avoid any asking for tax support and hopefully that will be the case."
Lowndes County leaders say if South Georgia Medical Center eventually needs some kind of financial help, there are several options local governments could look at, options that shouldn't cause a major burden for area taxpayers.
Joe Pritchard, Lowndes County Manager, says, "There could be capital needs that the hospital would have that could be considered in a future SPLOST tax. There could be a request from the hospital to consider a specific tax amount."
"We are fortunate and we don't anticipate having to have tax support for daily operations," adds McGahee.
But any request for local governments to chip in tax funds is a last ditch option for the hospital and right now optimism remains high that drastic step will not need to be taken. SGMC executives say if outside funding picks up, projects like an emergency room expansion could be completed without taxpayer cost.