Meharry Medical College took public comments about the future of Nashville General Hospital, and the message was clear. Community members — most with some kind of personal ties — said they want the city to spend more money on the hospital, not less.
Some tension has built upbetween the hospital and Meharry after the school decided to move its medical students to Tristar Southern Hills, citing low patient volume at General Hospital. But Evelyn Means, who works at the city's safety net facility, encouraged the crowd to find a common goal: lobbying the city for more funding.
Meharry Medical College is one of the black colleges supported by the Black College Fund which provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities.
"Rather than us standing here and bickering against each other, let's attack the city," she said to applause at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. "Let's ask them, and make them give us what we need to fund our hospital and take care of our patients."
Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry was called out by name and accused of ignoring the needs of the city's poorest residents. She slowed down efforts to close inpatient services at the hospital. But the Metro Council still needed to approve a $20 million mid-year cash infusion in February in order to keep the facility afloat.
"Many of the articles that have been posted in the paper, I'm not even able to read them because it's so heavy on my heart, the idea they could be considering closing the hospital," said Rosalyn Word, a graduate of the dental hygiene program at Meharry who teaches at Tennessee State University.
If the problem is too few patients, politicians should focus their energy on finding some, Word said. "Elected officials, get on your job."
The listening session was organized by the Meharry panel assembled to find more efficient ways of caring for indigent patients in Nashville. The group came under fire — even from the mayor — for its closed-door meetings and general lack of transparency.
The meeting was meant to give the public a voice in the process. No officials from Meharry or General Hospital spoke.
Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.