ARLINGTON, Ga. — The head of Calhoun County’s largest employer says it will have a reduction in force of 29 employees as Calhoun County Hospital works to cope with mounting financial challenges brought on by indigent patients and troubles with Medicaid and Medicare.
Earl Whiteley, CEO of Calhoun County Hospital, says that the amount the hospital spends on indigent care ballooned over the last four years. With the state and federal government unlikely to increase funding, the hospital is making some drastic decisions to remain operating.
“I like to say that the federal government can’t afford Medicare; the state can’t afford Medicaid; so they push all of the cost and responsibility onto the county commissions that run the hospitals,” Whiteley said. “We’ve seen a great increase in our indigent care over the last four years and with the Affordable Care Act set to kick in 2014, we don’t see things getting any better.”
According to Whiteley, Calhoun County paid $834,000 in indigent care for people who didn’t have insurance for the fiscal year that ended in March 2008. Last March, that number had grown to $1.8 million.
Whitely credits Calhoun County’s 18 percent unemployment rate, a lack of insured patients and slow and minimal reimbursement by the state and federal government for claims as the reason for the decision to downsize.
The hospital authority has already sold its assisted living facility in Edison and is negotiating terms of sale for its nursing home in Edison, with the hope of using the proceeds to pay down an operating loan that remains outstanding.
“Hopefully we can get enough to pay down that loan and make a dent in some of the other debts we have,” Whiteley said.