Put compassion first with Nashville General Hospital

Brenda Gilmore 2005

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore

For more than 125 years, Nashville General Hospital has provided care to Nashvillians, many of whom would have no other way to get medical attention. It opened its doors in 1890, when it was called City Hospital, a true and fitting name for all the services it has provided throughout the years. For many indigent and elderly Nashvillians it has served as their primary source of care for generations.

Now, the mayor proposes we close the doors of the hospital to inpatient care and the city try to create a way to pay for private hospitals to service those who need help in our communities. This plan was announced without any real input from all the numerous stakeholders that should be involved in the decision. Without question, the hospital faces serious issues, most notably, the fact that more than half its available beds are going unused. Also factor in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report that says hospital costs have increased and remain uncertain in states like Tennessee that have not approved Medicaid expansion by the federal government.

For years, as the city’s safety net hospital, Nashville General has been THE place for Nashvillians with nowhere else to turn. For the last several years however, we have de-emphasized General Hospital, throwing millions in funding at it when needed, instead of coming up with a viable plan to transform it into a profitable venture. It can be done. Look no further than the transformation of the Regional One Medical Center (also known as the MED) in Memphis. At one time, it faced many of the same problems faced by Nashville General, however through a combination of providing unique services to the community and bold leadership from both the hospital and city/county government. It has become a viable part of Memphis. We need a vigorous exploration of other options instead of closing in-patient services and perhaps starting what many fear could be the beginning of the end.

We have to look out for the indigent and elderly people who use General Hospital and take advantage of the quality care it can provide. We can’t leave anyone behind. Transportation is certainly a big issue in this community and I understand the push for a soccer stadium and the value that professional sports can bring to a city. However, we can’t prioritize those things at the expense of the needy.

This proposal still must be approved by the Metro Council, the Nashville Hospital Authority and Meharry Medical College, which owns the building where Nashville General currently resides. As all of these entities begin deliberations in the coming weeks, I urge Nashvillians with a conscience to let their voices be heard.

We must hold the mayor and city accountable to those who can’t speak for themselves. Nashville must be the ‘It City’ where we put compassion first.