Medical Center to vote on budget today

The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s board is scheduled to adopt the hospital’s 2010 budget today at a late afternoon meeting.

The hospital underwent a major cost-cutting initiative at the same time it adopted its last annual budget. The cuts included eliminating more than 200 jobs and more than $30 million from the hospital’s expenses in the 2009 budget year, which ends Sept. 30. At the same time, the hospital identified a total of about $43 million in potential annual savings to be realized in future budgets.

Since last fall, Medical Center investments have suffered along with the national market, and Bibb County cut $2.9 million from its 2009 funding to the hospital. Hospital leaders have said they will have to cut programs to make up the difference, but they have not said how they will achieve that savings.

Last week, The Telegraph filed a request under the state’s Open Records Act to gain access to budget documents before their final approval by the hospital board, but the hospital has not supplied any information. Hospital CEO Don Faulk has said he will not discuss the budget until after it is passed today.

In a written response Tuesday to the open records request, hospital attorney Kenneth Banks said the hospital acknowledged that some of the information is public, and he indicated that would be gathered for inspection. But the hospital considers some of the data exempt from Georgia’s open records law.

In conversations with Telegraph attorney Walter Bush, Banks stressed an exemption that allows hospitals to keep documents private in cases in which publication would provide proprietary information to competitors.

The hospital’s response to the open records request did not come within the three days the law allows, and it didn’t indicate when nonexempt documents would be made available, as the law requires.

When the Medical Center switched from being a public hospital to a private nonprofit in 1995, a key concession it made to county commissioners was an agreement that its records would continue to be open to the public. Commissioners said at the time that they wanted the records open so they could keep tabs on the hospital’s finances.

Information from The Telegraph archives was included in this report. To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.