ALBANY Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone urged his fellow commissioners Monday to write a letter to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital executives urging them to chip in more to the financial stability to the county.
"The taxpayers of this county were there for them when they couldn't keep their doors open," Stone said. "I think it would nice if they could help the county when it needs it."
Stone's comments come after commissioners learned Monday that Phoebe had agreed to slash the price it was charging the county to provide health care services to inmates at the Dougherty County Jail, saving the county $643,000.
The move allowed County Administrator Richard Crowdis to cut the number of unpaid holidays he and fellow county employees will have to take from nine to three in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Stone's message Monday echoes one he gave before the Hospital Authority of Albany and Dougherty County recently in which he told the members that, since they were required by the constitution of the state to provide health care to the indigent, Phoebe should pickup the full tab of inmates at the jail.
"They're job is make sure indigent people can get medical care," Stone said. "There ain't no more indigent people in Dougherty County than the people who are out at the jail."
Stone's call to Phoebe comes as the full Dougherty County Commission begins deliberations on its Fiscal Year 2013 budget, which is slated to begin July 1.
The budget has already largely been crafted by Crowdis, his staff and the Dougherty County Finance Subcommittee.
Monday, Stone called on the commission to send a letter to Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick and Board member Lemuel Griffin calling on Phoebe to step up and "help the county out."
Stone recalled a time when Phoebe's finances weren't as rosy as they appear to be now; a period when mustering $195 million for the purchase of their crosstown rival hospital was all but a pipe dream.
It was during that period that Stone says that former hospital administrator Duncan Moore called on the county commission to dedicate a portion of the millage rate levied on property owners to help prop the hospital up.
"There was a time, I'm told, that they couldn't keep the doors open if it wasn't for the taxpayers of this county," Stone said. "I think it's time that they returned the favor."
While Stone's comments seem harsh towards the not-for-profit hospital, he later tempered his comments, saying that Phoebe deserved to be the hospital to run the former campus of Palmyra Medical Centers.
County Attorney Spencer Lee hinted that it was partially Stone's comments that prompted a phone call from Phoebe's lead lawyer Tommy Chambless, who offered to cut the price on the jail contract.
"I think that this was their offer to help," Lee said. "If you're wanting to counter offer, then that's something else," Lee said to the commission.
Last year, Phoebe approached the county with a last--minute offer to cut the cost of the inmate healthcare contract in exchange for a one-year extension. That cut, coupled with more than $600,000 in savings from the county's health plan, allowed the county commission to spare its employees from any unpaid holidays.