What services are you willing to lose?

Published 1:42 am Saturday, August 29, 2015


On behalf of the 84,000 people who work in Alabama hospitals and the 7 million patients they serve each year, we’re writing to implore our state leaders to do what is right and what is needed to maintain access to hospital services for all of us.

Currently, 79 percent of Alabama’s hospitals are operating at a loss, with the average margin being a negative 2.7 percent. In most hospitals, Medicaid covers approximately 12 percent of patients; however, in some areas, that percentage is much higher. Approximately 60 percent of Children’s of Alabama patients are supported by Medicaid and at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital the number is 70 percent. So, when state officials begin talking about cuts that could cripple Medicaid, mental health or other vital health care programs, everyone should realize that those cuts won’t just be felt by recipients of those services; they will be felt by all of us.

Any businessman or woman understands that when you’re operating in the red, you don’t have money to replace worn out equipment or to make needed renovations. In fact, to survive you have to dip into dwindling reserves or start eliminating staff and/or services. That’s exactly what Alabama’s hospitals have been doing the last several years. Many of them have eliminated services, cut staff positions, and over the past five years, eight hospitals have closed, five of which were located in rural areas. Others have already cut expenses to the bone and are struggling to survive.

None of us like the thought of additional taxes, and we understand the hesitation on the part of lawmakers, but there’s simply no other way out of the state budget dilemma. The increases being discussed would hardly be felt by the majority of Alabamians, yet without them we’re all going to feel the pain, not just in health care, but also in public safety, in corrections and any number of areas supported by our state’s General Fund.

Reductions in Medicaid and/or mental health funding could risk the collapse of the programs. For those who might read this with a jaded eye, we urge you to talk with your local hospital leaders. Ask them how such a collapse in either program would impact their ability to provide care to everyone. Then, ask yourself how much you are willing to lose. Do you really want to risk losing access to critical hospital services? Do you want to take a chance that your hospital might not survive? Do you want to jeopardize your access to other health care providers, such as your local physicians and pharmacies?

We need to be realistic about our state budget and support our lawmakers in making the tough call to raise enough revenue to adequately fund our necessary state services.


Glenn Sisk

CEO of Coosa Valley Medical Center and chairman of the Alabama Hospital Association Board of Trustees, on behalf of the Board.