Fulton Commissioners Hear Protests Against Grady Budget Cuts

Grady Memorial Hospital

  As Fulton County commissioners hammer out a new budget, they face strong public opposition to one plan currently on the table: to cut some $25 million from the budget of Grady Health System.

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Commissioners got an earful of public comment Wednesday on the proposed cuts. At the top of the list of concerns: mental health care, which would be redirected from Grady to county clinics if the budget cuts go through.

Cathryn Marchman, with St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Services of Atlanta, told commissioners her organization has referred hundreds of psychiatric patients to Grady this year alone. Marchman said she asked her staff what would happen if St. Joseph’s could no longer refer patients to Grady.

“The first reaction was ‘pure chaos.’  They also said that there would be a danger to society, that the ER would be flooded, that there would be decompensation of our currently psychiatrically stable clients,” said Marchman. “There would be loss of housing, an increase in homelessness, and most of those patients would drop out of care.”

In a news conference before Wednesday’s commission meeting, the Grady Coalition told reporters it will mobilize to stop the cuts.

One member of that coalition is State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Fulton County).  He also protested the cuts in the commission meeting but told commissioners he understands funding healthcare in Fulton County is not their responsibility alone.

“We ought to hold some folk accountable and tell the entire truth about why Grady is in the position it is in,” said Fort. “It is because the governor has chosen not to do Medicaid expansion.”

Sen. Fort says, with Medicaid expansion, 43,000 uninsured people in Fulton and DeKalb Counties would have health coverage. Right now, Grady officials say the health system’s budget funds some $200 million a year in indigent care with most of that money coming from local taxes and federal funds.

Commissioners made no comment on what they heard Wednesday. They will work on the budget in a session next week in hopes of finalizing it in January.