Floyd Medical Center is awaiting a decision from the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health as to whether the department will overturn a 2018 decision to deny the hospital’s certificate of need application for open heart surgery services.
Their request was rejected more than two years ago and Floyd’s initial appeal was rejected by the state.
After Floyd Medical Center filing an appeal with the Superior Court of Floyd County, Judge Bryant Durham remanded the issue back to the department on April 14 of this year for a decision. Durham called the state’s rejection of the hospital’s application, “arbitrary and capricious.”
FMC President Kurt Stuenkel said that an initiative of American Hospital Association, the Equity, of Care project, revealed that the Rome area has significant disparities for care including a high rate of mortality from cardiovascular disease, and an even higher rate for African Americans.
“It’s clear, you can’t deny the data,” Stuenkel said. “The death rates are high for African-Americans and the occurrence of surgery is low.”
In the last week, Floyd has initiated a More Heart for Northwest Georgia, www.moreheartnwga.org, media campaign which has netted more than 1,340 signatures on a petition Friday afternoon to the state to allow the hospital to offer open heart services. Stuenkel denied accusations that the hospital is attempting to take advantage of an increased interest in racial justice with the new campaign.
“This is the timeline of review for the application, it’s on appeal now to the commissioner of DCH and we’re doing a grassroots campaign to get support,” Stuenkel said.
Redmond Regional Medical Center has been the sole provider of open heart services in Rome since 1986. Dr. Dan Goldfaden started the program which is now being led by Dr. Dhru Girard and Dr. Cyrus Parsa.
“The potential here is that you take one robust, successful, good quality program and split it into two smaller, less viable lower quality programs,” said Redmond Regional Medical Center CEO John Quinlivan. “This is a very technical discipline in order to stay sharp for the surgeons and the surgical team you have to do a lot of cases and we’re fortunate here at Redmond to do a lot of cases. If you cut that volume in half, then neither of those programs will be as strong as what we have now.”
Quinlivan said that Floyd has based its appeal on misleading data with respect to its service to the African American and indigent community in the service area.
Aside from that, Quinlivan pointed out the hospital simply handles the patients who are brought in by the surgeons.
“The surgeons determine who gets surgery. The hospital has nothing to do with it,” Quinlivan said “I don’t need to know any of that stuff. We support every case that they send us. The mix of white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, we don’t have anything to do with that and the surgeons make no distinction on that basis. They operate on who medically needs the surgery.”
In a letter published in the Saturday opinion section Dr. Goldfaden said he was “disappointed and disturbed at Floyd Medical Center’s accusations that the heart-surgery program at Redmond has not served minority and indigent populations in our community equitably.”
Stuenkel said Floyd’s push didn’t arise out of a belief there was some form of discrimination involved, but feel more outreach is necessary.
“We are not accusing anybody, and never would, of actively discriminating, I just absolutely do not believe that to be the case,” Stuenkel said. “We know the doctors that operate at Redmond, and HCA would not actively discriminate but they haven’t done outreach.”
“Our commitment is to put together programs of outreach to the African American community and through our grassroots campaign,” Stuenkel said. “It is a complex problem and its time to address disparities of care.”