Saturday, May 30, 2009
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CONYERS - Rockdale County would be responsible for county jail inmate indigent hospital care costs after the potential sale of Rockdale Medical Center is completed. However, hospital officials said this week that future property and sales taxes from a privately operated hospital should cover any costs. RMC currently writes off services provided to jail inmates, who are defined as indigent patients, in return for the county backing part of the hospital's bond debt pursuant to a contract between the county and the Rockdale Hospital Authority.That agreement expires when the hospital's bond debt is paid off - something that is expected to happen immediately following the completion of the sale to Houston-based Signature Hospital Corp.Rockdale County Hospital Authority Chairwoman Ethel Boyle said Tuesday a cost analysis by RMC administrators showed amounts that would have been charged for jail inmates receiving hospital care is minimal, at best.Total costs written off by RMC to the county amounted to less than $1,000 in December and November, Boyle said."It's nominal, $100,000, maybe more, per year, and it depends on issues every year," she said. "There's no fixed cost because you don't know what the fixed problems are, but it's not a gigantic figure."She explained those costs would be easily covered by new tax revenue from the hospital after its sale to Signature. Though a county tax assessment has not yet been performed, company officials have estimated that total tax revenue from the hospital could top $2 million per year.However, since the proposed sale of the hospital was delayed until after the new year, the county will begin to collect sales tax revenue from the hospital once the sale goes through, but no property taxes until next year.Jay Hoffman, vice president for acquisitions for Signature, confirmed that there were no plans to continue a contract with Rockdale County for inmate indigent care services. He explained that because Signature is a private entity, the hospital would not be getting the same benefit the publicly controlled hospital now receives from the county - namely, the financial backing of bonds.Boyle said there is a potential for the county and the Hospital Authority to enter into a new agreement for inmate indigent care; however, no discussions have taken place."That's a possibility down the road once we get restructured, and we're certainly willing to entertain something like that, but as far as anything prior to closing (on the sale) there's nothing," she said.The county jail has a clinic and is staffed by a contractor who provides basic health care for inmates. The county has budgeted $820,000 for inmate health costs in the 2008 budget.A public hearing on the proposed sale of the 54-year-old hospital is scheduled for Feb. 12, though time and location have yet to be determined.The Hospital Authority has planned to continue to operate with interest generated from the proceeds of the hospital sale - $62.7 million in cash, with the remaining $25 million to be paid in the form of a promissory note.Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.