Commission deserves kudos

Those of us who live and work in Gwinnett County should be heartily thankful to our Board of Commissioners for having the wisdom and foresight to pass the resolution to provide $25 million over five years to our national award-winning community hospital, Gwinnett Medical Center. This financial backing by the county will enable Gwinnett Medical Center to build more beds at its Lawrenceville facility, pending state approval.

Anyone who has waited for hours in the emergency room can attest to the acute need for more hospital beds. The emergency room gets crowded when there are no empty beds in the hospital for those who need to be admitted.

It is to Commissioner Mike Beaudreau's shame that he voted against this desperately needed resolution, which passed 3-1 on Nov. 21. It should have passed unanimously.

It was the intent of the General Assembly that the hospital authority provide for the continued operation and maintenance of needed health care facilities in the county and provide care for those of its residents who were unable to pay for such care. It also has a duty to address unmet health care needs.

A nonprofit hospital uses its profits to reinvest in itself and build capacity. This became difficult with the passage of the federal Balanced Budget Act of 1996, which reduced Medicare reimbursements for treatment, and by the advent of managed care, which capped insurance reimbursements with small regard to the actual cost of service.

The exponential growth of Gwinnett's population during these years increased the indigent and underinsured care load so assistance was needed to build more capacity. The hospital authority applied to the county for assistance and the county responded.

A healthy nonprofit community hospital that is large enough to properly serve the needs of the growing population within its reach is essential for the quality of life we all want. Our commissioners have seen to our future health care needs by their action. It should not be seen as a "big giveaway," but as a prudent investment in Gwinnett's overall availability of world-class health care for its citizens.

It should be noted that Chairman Charles Bannister has been a friend and donor to the hospital for a long time, having served on the Board of Trustees for 14 years.

While serving in the General Assembly he was instrumental in the passage of the enabling legislation that would allow the nonprofit hospitals in Georgia to be included in sales tax distributions. Many of Georgia's hospitals simply must have a bigger tax benefit if they are to survive for the future. Too many hospitals have closed in Georgia already.

So, many thanks to Bannister and Commissioners Lorraine Green, Kevin Kenerly and Bert Nasuti. They did the right thing.

Gay Shook of Peachtree Corners is serving her second three-year term on the Hospital Authority of Gwinnett County. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.