African American council members say they were blindsided by an announcement Thursday by Mayor Megan Barry to close Nashville General Hospital inpatient facilities. In a letter to council members, Barry said that she would like to close inpatient care at the hospital and refocus “Nashville General Hospital’s operations to an ambulatory care model that provides high-quality clinic and other outpatient care services.”
“Since 2005, Metro has provided more than half a billion dollars to support the operations of Nashville General, while the number of patients being served has decreased. I believe we can invest our resources more strategically to provide for the health care needs of our city’s indigent population, while maintaining operations at Nashville General Hospital,” said Barry.
African American council members are skeptical about the announcement and question its timing, coming just two days after they gave overwhelming support for the mayor’s MLS stadium project.
Barry, who recently criticized proponents of a community oversight board of not involving stakeholders in decisions, is being accused of exercising a lack of due diligence and not informing critical community members of her plans.
“Just the whole process of it, the optics of it, doesn’t look well in the community, specifically the Black community. People are afraid, and they don’t know what the announcement means,” said Councilwoman at-Large Sharon Hurt in a recent interview. “It’s being presented in a way that is not transparent.”
Hurt also suggests that the mayor’s office purposely waited to roll out the Nashville General Hospital news until the MLS stadium financing was secured, calling it “premeditated.”
According to Hurt, had the announcement been made prior to the vote for the stadium: “I think that the results of that vote would have been different.”
Barry’s announcement comes on the heels of the announced partnership between Meharry Medical College and HCA. Meharry plans to send some of its medical students to train at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center instead of Nashville General.
The Mayor’s Office said that the timing of the announcement was the result of the Meharry-HCA news.
The transition to an outpatient-only facility would require approval from the council, which will be difficult.
Minority Caucus chairman and District 5 Councilman Scott Davis believes that the discussion of the fate of the hospital should have happened before agreeing to fund the soccer stadium.
“The health for people who need it the most in this city to me is more important than having a soccer team,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against a soccer team, but if I had a priority, and it came down to money for one versus the other, my money would be on the hospital.
“It’s something that at this time, I don’t think I can support. It’s tough. This thing is bothering a lot of people. I hope the timing of the announcement wasn’t deliberately made after the stadium vote, but it does put future legislation needed for the stadium in jeopardy.”