County "exploring all avenues" for MED funding

A grassroots effort is underway to save the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.
A grassroots effort is underway to save the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A grassroots effort is underway to save the Regional Medical Center at Memphis after Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced no extra cash for the hospital that houses the region's only Level One trauma center.

Last October, Gene Holcomb, Chairman of The MED's Board, said the hospital's $32 million budgetary shortfall could put its emergency room on the chopping block by Mid-February.

"That's probably more than a 50-50 chance," Holcomb said in an October 21, 2009 interview with Action News 5.

With the countdown on, the Shelby County Commission put up $10 million in funding at their last meeting.  But on Monday, Tennessee Governor Bredesen said the state's money has other priorities.

"The governor probably already had his budget ready," interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford said.

With no help coming from Nashville, Ford says government workers are helping to chip away at the red.

"We're exploring all avenues to get funding for the MED," Ford said. "Our deduction from the county payroll for county employees is in place."

Some county employees are deducting donations right out of their pay checks.

"We're hoping to send it over to the city school system, and we're hoping it will work out real fine and we can get maybe three, four million dollars a year from that," Ford said.

Meanwhile, The MED Foundation is holding a web drive.  Sponsors have agreed to donate a dollar for each visits to the website, if people in the community can make 5,000 unique visits to it.

Since December, the 5,000 Touches Challenge has more than doubled its goal.  With that, Ford hopes the governor will join in and help put The MED in the black.
"We had good talks and we hope that we get good things from those talks," Ford said.

More effects of a possible MED closure

"We hope that the State of Tennessee and the State Legislature will look at the UT Medical School that sits right in the middle of the Regional Medical Center," interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford said Wednesday.

That's because the MED is the main teaching site for the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. The students and faculty stand to crumble in the collateral financial damage.

"All their doctors and nurses practice there," Ford said. "We just hope that they understand if The Med was to close, where would the medical school go?  Would they lose their accreditation?  It's a possibility."

Not only is the hospital in danger of having to close West Tennessee's only level one trauma center, 270 medical students and residents could be displaced, and 2,400 jobs are on the line.

"The city's not going to let it happen, the county is not going to let it happen, the state won't let it happen and the citizens are not going to let The MED close," Ford said.

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