James Sept-Oct 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 63
n the spring of 2020, Laconyea Lynn of Albany went to Phoebe Putney Memorial
Hospital with fatigue.
Lynn woke up after six weeks
on a ventilator and learned she’d had
COVID-19, a disease she’d never heard
of. She was among the first in the
nation to catch the virus— and among
the last to find out what it was. In total,
she spent 72 days at Phoebe, walking
out amid a tunnel of cheering nurses
anxious to celebrate a survivor after witnessing so much heartache.
Lynn was one of many. Albany became
one of the first COVID hotspots, and its healthcare
professionals at Phoebe found themselves on the front lines
of a war with an unknown enemy. Phoebe serves a vast
area of rural southwest Georgia. Many counties in the region never had a hospital. Others have seen their hospitals
close, most recently the one in Cuthbert in 2019.
In the first 100 days of the pandemic, Phoebe had
2,728 positive COVID tests and 914 hospital admissions.
Every bed was full. Offices were turned in to patient
rooms. With PPE in short supply, staff sewed masks.
Throughout the crisis Phoebe provided comprehensive medical services that brought a sparsely populated
region with high levels of poverty through a terrifying
health crisis. If left simply to market forces, southwest
Georgia wouldn’t have had these resources at the ready.
Georgia’s Certificate of Need laws play a key role
in stabilizing healthcare delivery systems that provide
access to all patients and broad-based, essential services
to their communities. CON laws strike a balance between
SEPTEMBER/ OCTOB E R 2021
improving access to care and striving to ensure
that communities have the critical services
they need, such as trauma care and intensive care for premature infants, even
though those services often lose money.
In simple terms, that means the
Georgia law recognizes that hospitals
offer essential services that no other
provider does and often care for patients who can’t pay.
Opponents argue CON laws prevent competition that would drive down
healthcare costs. But freestanding surgery
centers and imaging centers that provide
only the most profitable procedures and only to
the highest-paying customers aren’t competing against
hospitals, they’re cannibalizing them.
That leads to hospital closures, which have devastating effects on communities.
CON laws do not restrict access to needed care, increase costs, or impede high-quality care. To the contrary,
costs and payments are lower with CON safeguards. For
example, the average charge for a hospital admission in
Texas, which lacks CON laws, is $7,500 more than Georgia. CON laws promote higher quality care for vulnerable
patients, including neonatal intensive care for fragile
infants and coronary interventions for heart patients.
Even with the CON protections, Georgians still have
many more competitive options than patients in the vast
majority of states. Georgia regularly approves new services found to improve cost, quality, financial access or
geographic access to care. In 2020, Georgia approved 90
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