ATLANTA — While Grady Health System is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, it can no longer afford to be the only safety net hospital in metro Atlanta, the health system’s new chief executive officer said last Friday.
After a week on the job, Michael Young said the public hospital must attract more paying patients while continuing to fulfill its mission to care for the city’s poor.
Currently, over 90 percent of Grady’s patients are unable to pay for their treatment, and at least some of them are coming to Grady from other area hospitals, Young said.
“We’re not the safety net hospital; we’re the safety net foundation for these 14 counties,” he said. “We’re going to need some help. Grady cannot be the sole answer for every county in western Georgia.”
Part of the solution will be persuading other hospitals in the area to keep their indigent patients instead of sending them to Grady — something Young said he suspects is currently happening.
“Patients are being seen elsewhere and then sent here for follow-up care,” he said.
Young shared with reporters his first impressions of the hospital and the area’s health care systems. After spending about 20 hours in Grady’s emergency room, he said he was surprised by the volume of patients — something he was not aware of before he arrived last Tuesday.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my career,” said Young, who has worked as a hospital administrator for more than two decades.
He also had high praise for many of Grady’s programs, including trauma care, HIV/AIDS, cardiology, orthopedics, the cancer facility and pharmacy. Young said such programs should be promoted, both among the staff to their friends and to other Atlantans, to attract paying patients.
“If we can fill up patients coming to the factory, that’ll bring more revenue,” he said. “Frankly, people have been a little nervous … If I need care, I’ll come here.”
Filling the coffers is a priority for Young, who will be paid a $615,000 salary.
Only a year ago, Grady was in danger of closing its doors, as it faced a $55 million deficit. Its reputation as a hospital for the poor has hobbled the institution for decades and made it hard to attract insured customers.
Now, flush with a $200 million, four-year donation from The Woodruff Foundation for capital improvements and new leadership, the hospital is looking to turn itself around.
Today, people with insurance are most likely to find themselves at Grady if they’ve been in a car crash or other serious accident because Grady is the only hospital in a 100-mile radius of Atlanta that has a Level 1 trauma center, capable of treating the most severe injuries.
Young is also focused on buying much-needed, modern equipment and improving perceptions about Grady in the community. He said credibility will be the cure for the ailing health system.
“We need to demonstrate that we’re real,” Young said. “We have to reassure the community that Grady’s back to normal.”
Like some other urban hospitals across the United States that primarily serve the needy, Grady has reached a crisis because of rising health care costs, dwindling government aid, a lack of paying customers and years of neglect. More »
Costs are still rising to keep up with growing patient demand for
services, the needs of an aging population and prescription drug and
technology costs, according to Aon Consulting. Overuse and misuse of services and an “out-of-control medical
liability system” also contribute to increases, said Robert Zirkelbach
of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade association. More »
Costs are still rising to keep up with growing patient demand for services, the needs of an aging population and prescription drug and technology costs, according to Aon Consulting. Overuse and misuse of services and an “out-of-control medical liability system” also contribute to increases, said Robert Zirkelbach of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade association. More »