By David Pendered
It’s a small sale in terms of the overall size of Grady Health System, but this one is significant.
The authority that oversees Grady has sold an unused building and parking lot in Roswell. Proceeds from the sale will pay for community-based health care services aimed at reducing the amount of costly care people otherwise may seek at Grady’s emergency room.
This real estate sale is the latest example of the extent of change that has swept over Grady since the reorganization of the region’s largest public hospital.
The hospital authority has handed over control of day-to-day management of Grady Health System to Grady Memorial Health Corporation. The authority is no longer perceived as meddling in hospital affairs, nor as seeking to oversee a collection of brick-and-mortar monuments to health care.
Now, the authority is charged with overseeing the corporation, and also with sponsoring community health events and advocating for healthcare policy in Georgia.
“The money will go into a reserve fund and be used to support indigent care and a community impact program, as well,” said Tommy Dortch, Jr., chairman of the Fulton DeKalb Hospital Authority. “We’ve been supporting and funding community-based organizations that have a track record of being effective in providing screenings and prevention.”
The authority sold property located at 1143 Alpharetta St. Dortch said the after-sale benefit to the authority will be $469,350.18.
The property was deemed surplus because Grady now serves the area through a full-service clinic it co-located with the Fulton County Health Department, at 7741 Roswell Road, in Sandy Springs.
Dortch said the authority identified the property as surplus almost two years ago. The authority decided to look into selling the site in order to reallocate assets toward a community-based program need. The land was put on the market after the corporation determined it was surplus.
“We’re not trying to be in the landlord and land management business, that’s not our forte,” Dortch said. “We needed to liquidate it because, No. 1, the property was just sitting there without upkeep maintenance, and so it was going to continue costing the authority. This property also had some asbestos mitigation issues.”
State law provides the authority with wide leeway in using resources to provide for the public’s health. Dortch said the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority has landed on the method of paying community-based organizations to get health care delivered where people can easily get to it.
“We’ve funded a number of organizations this year, including the Sickle cell Foundation, that does all the screenings in the state of Georgia,” Dortch said. “We’ve supported a number of organizations, after a stringent review by an external team of community leaders, that we think is gonig to go a long way to address the challenges and needs of health care in our community.
“That will go a long way to taking some of the pressure off our public hospital,” Dortch said.
The goal of community-based health care programs is to help people maintain their health for their own well-being, as well as to reduce the number of visits to Grady’s emergency room. The cost of care provided in ERs a much higher than it is in non-emergency settings, regardless of which health care facility provides it.
The community-based model has been tremendously successful nationwide in safety net hospitals such as Grady. In Denver, for example, this type of outreach is credited with helping to pull the region’s public hospital back from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1990s by helping to lower the cost of health care.
Dortch said Grady owns just one more property that has been deemed surplus – the old U.S. Post Office on Grimes Road in Roswell that Grady bought from the city. However, Roswell has placed so many conditions on the property that it no longer is suitable for Grady’s use, and the authority would like to sell it back to the city, Dortch said.
Looking ahead, Dortch said the authority intends to look into the shortage of nurses. One possibility would be to help provide scholarships for nursing students, who would agree to provide two or three years of service at Grady in exchange for the financial aid.
“We’re trying to make sure, at the end of the day, that we have a healthier community, and that as more people are coming to Grady, we have one of the greatest hospitals in the southeast region and have some of the programs that area among the best in the nation,” Dortch said. “Stroke, diabetes centers – we have many top shelf services now and intend to add to them.”