The Pulse

A hospital’s main strategy — survival

The CEO of Southern Regional Medical Center has her hands full.

The financially ailing hospital in Riverdale, in south metro Atlanta, has seen high levels of uncompensated care and a decrease in privately insured patients, among other negative payment trends.

Kim Ryan

Kim Ryan

Last year, a $50 million Clayton County bailout helped Southern Regional Medical Center step back from a financial cliff.

This week, facing continuing challenges, Southern Regional CEO Kim Ryan announced job cuts.

“We have made a commitment to increase efficiencies and reduce costs,” Ryan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these measures required an organizational restructuring and the elimination of 80 positions, including management positions, throughout the health system.”

Ryan has met with county and community leaders over the past few weeks in an effort to obtain additional financial support, the hospital said.

Similar financial pain has spread across the Georgia hospital industry, from rural facilities to urban systems. full story

A few words could affect millions of people

Benjamin Wills of Atlanta is among the more than 400,000 Georgians receiving a subsidy to afford health insurance in the Affordable Care Act exchange.

With the subsidy, Wills is paying a monthly premium of $370 for family medical and dental coverage through the exchange.


Benjamin Wills

If he loses the subsidy, Wills said Wednesday, he could be forced to drop his family’s dental coverage, and perhaps re-enroll his daughter in the government PeachCare program.

“The way [the ACA] is now is working for our family,’’ said Wills, who recently left a job with benefits to start a private Christian school in Atlanta.

The fate of the insurance subsidies – and the future of the Affordable Care Act in general – were on the line as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on the legality of the credits in the exchanges in Georgia and 36 other states.

This case, King v. Burwell, is not officially a challenge to the ACA. Instead, the plaintiffs in the case say the law is not being followed. They argue that the subsidies, which help people afford coverage, are not permitted by the health law in the 37 states that have federally operated insurance exchanges.

After more than an hour of arguments in the case Wednesday, the justices appeared divided over the subsidies issue. full story

Legislators look at overhauling insurance laws

Georgia lawmakers considered insurance bills Wednesday that would create major changes in health plan networks in the state.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee first heard testimony on Senate Bill 143, which would require the state employee and teacher health plan to include the state’s five Level 1 trauma centers as “in-network” facilities.

That would help Grady Health System, a trauma center in Atlanta that is now “out-of-network” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members.

Blue Cross is the main insurer in the State Health Benefit Plan. So approval of Senate Bill 143 would make Grady in-network for the plan’s 630,000 members.

The state of Georgia has similar requirements with the health plans that serve Medicaid and PeachCare members, said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), lead sponsor of the bill. full story

Program for pregnant women can be a lifesaver

Lakizzy Carson’s first child, a boy, was born several weeks premature, weighing only 1 pound, 5 ounces. He needed hospital care for several weeks after his birth before he was able to go home.

Clayton County

Clayton County

It was not the kind of experience that Carson, of Clayton County, wanted to repeat. When she was pregnant with her second child, in 2012, she enrolled in a local health program intended to reduce premature births and infant mortality.

“I wanted help to guide me,’’ says Carson, now 37. She adds that she has what is known as an “incompetent cervix,” one with a tendency to weakness that can cause or contribute to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy.

Public Health officials in the county gave Carson information about nutrition, prenatal care and other resources.

“They gave me a whole lot of attention,” Carson says. “They kept me sane.’’

The second child, Jasmine, was born premature at 36 weeks, but she was able to go home with her mother.

Clayton County has been working on improving its infant mortality statistics for several years, targeting women such as Carson.

And the county, just south of Atlanta, recently received a $3.5 million award over five years from the federal Healthy Start grant program. full story

Food program for kids goes beyond the classroom

Every Thursday morning, more than 100 bags of nutritious food are prepared at an old brick building in rural Oconee County.

From there, volunteer drivers take the bags to schools in the county, where teachers and other school officials drop them into the backpacks of children (grades K-12) while the kids are out of the classroom. If not for the bags, many of these children might go hungry over the weekend.

“A lot of kids count on a free or reduced breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, but when they go home on the weekend there’s no cafeteria,” says Tyler Boykin, a counselor at High Shoals Elementary School, who helps to identify students in need of the program.

Volunteer students prepare the Food for Kids bags.

Volunteer students prepare the Food for Kids bags.

“It gives the kids who don’t have enough to eat some reassurance that they’re going to be OK over the weekend,” says Boykin.

Nearly 4,000 food bags were delivered in the 2013-14 school year.

It’s no mystery that a properly nourished student is a better prepared student. “When kids come into the classroom hungry, they aren’t ready to learn,” says Cindy Pritchard, director of the Food for Kids program. full story

Consumer Corner

Veggie-rich diet may lower heart risk

People who eat more plant foods than animal products may lower their risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

Around the State

Evans: Brain injury walk

On March 14, hundreds of survivors, supporters and medical and therapy staff will participate in the sixth annual Brain Injury Awareness Walk.

Read the full article:
Augusta Chronicle



Used medical gear helpful

FODAC provides gently used home medical equipment — such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, and shower chairs — to disabled and elderly citizens.

Read the full article:
Rockdale Citizen

WellStar CEO talks merger

WellStar Health System’s CEO updates state lawmakers on the possible merger between his company and Emory Healthcare.

Read the full article:
Marietta Daily Journal

Grady ex-official sentenced

The former payroll director of Grady Memorial Hospital was sentenced o more than seven years in prison for embezzling nearly $500,000 from the hospital.

Read the full article:

Athens: Nurse arrested, fired

Athens Regional Medical Center fires a nurse who was arrested in an alleged sodomy of a patient.

Read the full article:
Athens Banner-Herald




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