State lawmakers ask judge to unseal Grady records

ATLANTA - Six Republican state lawmakers have turned to the courts to help them pry open sealed whistleblower records from Grady Hospital.

A motion filed in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday said the state Legislature is being asked to bail Grady out and needs the information from the sealed whistleblower settlement agreement to help figure out the root causes of Grady's financial crisis.

'The public has a right to know if Grady is following good faith processes, if patients are being protected, if the public purse is being used properly and if closed door sessions determining the fate of Grady are being properly conducted,' the legal brief said.

The lawmakers are seeking records in a whistleblower case filed by former Grady physician James J. Murtagh Jr. He said he alleged the misuse of federal research dollars he was subjected to a bad faith peer review by Grady and Emory University. The case was settled and the settlement was sealed.

The state House of Representatives has put together a study committee to examine Grady, the state's largest public hospital and trauma center which says that it is hemorrhaging some $8 million a month. Grady services a largely poor and uninsured population as well as the region's most seriously injured patients.

Grady administrators warn that the hospital could run out of cash by the end of the year, forcing it to cut back services or shut down. Grady is staggering under a $125 million debt in short-term capital improvements, as well as a roughly $50 million annual funding deficit.

Republicans, who control state government, have been pushing for more accountability and oversight at Grady before they volunteer any cash.

The brief said that 'extremely grave public interests are at stake' which potentially jeopardize Grady's survival.

The GOP lawmakers filing Thursday's brief are: Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, of Savannah, Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, of Lyons, Sen. David Shafer, of Duluth, Sen. Dan Moody, of Alpharetta; Rep. John Lunsford, of McDonough; and Rep. Melvin Everson, of Snellville.