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Grady Health System’s HIV, surgery units advance as county funding to be reviewed

Grady Ponce de Leon Center. (Photo by David Pendered)

By David Pendered

The Grady Health System again faces a precarious future, even as it reached milestones last week with its advanced surgical center and new funding for a center that specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment.

Grady’s two-year funding contracts with Fulton and DeKalb counties expire at the end of this year, Tim Jefferson, Grady’s general counsel, told Fulton County commissioners at their Nov. 3 meeting.

Grady has been operating on a series of two-year agreements since 2013. The agreements provide for Grady to deliver health care to the indigent residents of the two counties. The previous 30-year contract was signed in 1984 and expired in 2013. Since then, the service agreements have been two-year extensions of the 1984 contract.

Jefferson said Grady and the counties are set to begin negotiations for a two-year deal and then on a longer-term agreement.

“We will be working with the county staff and county lawyers to develop another extension to that [1984] agreement, while at the same time we hope to be able to start the process of negotiating a long-term agreement,” Jefferson said. “At this point, we simply need to put in place an extension.”

Jefferson told commissioners his comments were intended as informational and required no response.

The milestones include the topping out party last week for the Center for Advanced Surgical Services. The facility is named Correll Pavilion, to honor A.D. “Pete” Correll, the former Georgia Pacific CEO who died this year after leading a civic effort to restructure Grady’s finances, management and reputation. His wife, two children and granddaughter signed the last steel beam to be placed. The facility’s cost was $231.9 million, according to Grady’s presentation to commissioners.

The other milestone is the final piece of funding for the $35 million Grady Ponce Center Infectious Disease Program. The center is among the nation’s largest providers of HIV/AIDS services, Jefferson said.

The center treats annually more than 6,000 men, women and children, according to Grady’s presentation. About 80 percent of patients are residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties, which Grady observed have the highest HIV prevalence in the state and among the highest in the nation.

Fulton commissioners voted unanimously on Nov. 3 to provide $8 million in bond funding for the renovation. The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners previously voted to provide its share of funding, $4 million, in cash from the general fund.

The HIV/AIDS opened in a building Grady purchased in 1991. The building was not updated before patient services began in the structure.

HIV/AIDS was still a crisis in 1991. This was the start of AIDS Walk Atlanta, still a rite-of-passage in Atlanta. Basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced he was HIV-positive. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer for Queen, died of pneumonia resulting from AIDS and withheld from the public his diagnosis until the day before his death.

Grady had intended to begin the clinic renovation project a few years ago but had to await authorization from the state. The state has granted a certificate of need for the center and Grady started renovation in October 2020, Jefferson said. The project is 25 percent complete, he said.

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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