Originally created 08/27/99

Hospital seeks to double price of indigent care



University Hospital will once again try to make caring for the uninsured an issue in local politics as it seeks to nearly double the amount it is paid for certified indigent care.

As it did last year with forums and town hall meetings with candidates for Augusta mayor, University will host forums and meetings for Augusta Commission candidates. Augusta contracts with University to care for those certified as indigent who need health care.

This year's contract was capped at $2.5 million and was just to pay for care for those admitted to the hospital, those seen in the emergency room and those who need outpatient surgery or observation. The cost so far this year for the services is nearly $2.1 million and is projected to be more than $3.4 million, said Richard Parks, president and CEO of University Health Services and Extended Care.

University is requesting a $4.9 million contract next year, which will also include paying for $700,000 for pharmacy services and $900,000 for three community clinics.

The University campaign hopes to provide a voice for the poor and uninsured who use the program, as the campaign did last year, said Cathy Slade, assistant vice president for corporate resources.

"They had no one to represent them," Ms. Slade told the hospital's board of trustees at Thursday's monthly meeting. "We have a group of people who don't qualify for other benefit-type programs, who are down on their luck, falling through the cracks, on hard times and they need someone to speak on their behalf."

A town hall meeting at Beulah Grove Baptist Church is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20. University is also planning voter registrations drives and forums for the commission race in which five of 10 seats will be up for election in November.

"We've been much more, let's say politically engaged in the last two years than we have been in the past and I think that's good for us," Mr. Parks said. "And hopefully, the residents we represent, who receive services here, appreciate it, too."

At Thursday's meeting, University was also recognized for its sponsorship role and the large number of hospital volunteers who helped out with the 1999 Georgia Games Championships in July.

"It wasn't just what you did, it was the way you did it," said Julian Miller, general manager for The Augusta Chronicle, presenting sponsor of the Games. "Everything we asked for was done, and then some."

Tom Corwin covers science and medicine for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.