Cash-Poor Governments Ditching Public Hospitals
By SUZANNE SATALINE
Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort.
Officials in Lauderdale County, Ala., this spring opted to transfer their 91-year-old Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and other properties to a for-profit company after struggling to satisfy an angry bond insurer.
“We were next to knocking on bankruptcy’s door,” said Rhea Fulmer, a Lauderdale County commissioner who approved the deal with RegionalCare Hospital Partners, of Brentwood, Tenn, but with trepidation. She said the county had no guarantee the company would improve care in the decades to come. “Time will tell.”