Nashville must support General Hospital

Tennessean Logo

April 26,2009

written by Rev. Jay Voorhees

As a pastor, I spend a lot of time in area hospitals.

Fortunately, when most of us seek healing in a hospital, we trust that insurance will cover most of the bill. However, for growing numbers of Nashvillians, money is a huge concern when they need health care.

I see them in emergency rooms, looking scared and knowing that the ER is the place of last resort for care. That is why I am glad that the people of Nashville have committed themselves to providing care with dignity to all residents through Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. At a time when the economy leaves almost all of us uncertain about our future insurance coverage, it is reassuring to know that General will be there if we need it.

We find ourselves at an important moment in our community’s relationship with its public hospital. Nashville can be proud of its community clinics that provide primary care to uninsured and underserved residents. However, these clinics cannot provide the acute in-patient care needed by so many patients — people who have cancer, suffer a heart attack or need surgery.

Some believe the concept of a community-owned hospital is outdated. I disagree. Our city’s public hospital says a lot about who we are as a community. It says that Nashvillians care for our neighbors in need. It says that our city values good health and wellness for all of its residents.

Access for everyone

In a city known around the world as a center for health-related businesses, General is evidence that as Nashville grows, it has not forgotten to make sure that everyone has access to good care. In a city with a reputation for unmatched hospitality, our public hospital is testimony that Nashville does not neglect its own. Conversely, as my friend the Rev. Henry Blaze regularly tells me, a city that fails to care for its sick is a sick city. That is not a description of the Nashville that I know and love.

Nashville is also known as a center of education. General Hospital serves as the principal teaching facility for Meharry Medical College students. Meharry is the largest private, comprehensive, historically black institution for educating health professionals and scientists in the nation. Without an accredited, strong General Hospital, we could see a long-term impact on our national health infrastructure.

More than 75 Nashville clergy have united with others in Nashville to voice our concerns regarding threatened cuts in public funding for Nashville General. Conversations are under way to find ways to strengthen General’s role as our city’s "safety net" facility at a time of deepening need.

I and many other Nashvillians believe that General stands as a witness to our values as a city. We urge everyone — our mayor, our governor, our business leaders, our citizens and our local officials and leaders in Washington — to stand with us in support of our community hospital.

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