NGH rendering

A rendering of the proposed future Nashville General Hospital location

Nashville General Hospital, the city’s safety net hospital, asked for a $60.2 million subsidy from the city and is slated to receive $57.8 million. 

The Hospital Authority Board met Monday afternoon in a special-called meeting and approved an amended budget for the hospital to mitigate the deficit. Metro’s subsidy fell short last year as well, with the hospital receiving $54.4 million compared to the $59.9 million requested, officials said. However, chief financial officer Bruce Naremore said fiscal year 2024 is the most favorable budget in his six years in the role and expects the hospital to operate in a deficit of $500,000 overall for the year. The total budget for Nashville General Hospital is about $140 million, he said.

Mayor John Cooper on May 1 released his fiscal year 2024 operating budget plan, which also provides $7.34 million of potential capital funding for the Nashville General Hospital, pending Metro Council approval. 

During the Monday meeting, Nashville General CEO Joseph Webb said the organization met with the mayor’s office and additional stakeholders about the hospital's pending relocation. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Ascension Saint Thomas, HCA Healthcare and the Metro Public Health Department were among those who participated in the meeting, Webb said, and the hospital is working to schedule a followup meeting with the mayor. 

Webb maintains that the organization is still looking for land and waiting on the mayor’s office to identify Metro-owned land the hospital could occupy. The mayor’s office requested additional documentation before moving forward, though Webb did not disclose the nature of the documents. 

“We can’t move forward without engaging the mayor’s office and having them support identifying that land so we can move forward with plans that we already have on the table.” Webb said. “Right now the property is the issue.” 

Mayor’s office spokesperson T.J. Ducklo’s statement to the Post conflicts with Webb’s sentiment. 

“Mayor Cooper strongly believes that access to quality health care for our city’s most vulnerable is essential," he wrote in a statement. "Nashville General has not previously requested our office’s help identifying potential location options for a new hospital. Several weeks ago, the hospital’s leadership shared an update on this topic with our office. Mayor Cooper asked for a number of specific followups that were missing from that presentation, and we have yet to receive those.”  

Webb maintained that there are several firms that have expressed interest in financially backing the hospital though declined to disclose them at the meeting and said he would not disclose interested parties until after a location is chosen. 

To make up for the $2.4 million deficit in the city's subsidy, the hospital will shave off $1.1 million in salaries due to staff roles that won’t be filled, Naremore said. The hospital also expects a drop in contract labor expenses and a savings in medical and pharmacy supplies thanks to a third party company that will help Nashville General save money with the 340B federal discount drug program. Naremore also anticipates saving money on building repairs due to the capital funding bump. 

Hospital board chair Richard Manson is prepared to make a presentation to the Meharry Medical College board this week, he said Monday. Last year, the medical college for which Nashville General serves as a teaching hospital, asserted that it had not been consulted in the hospital’s new location

“I think the two institutions are in step with each other,” Manson said. "We are connected at the hip in terms of what we need to provide and how to provide it.”  

Though board members Tamika Hudson and Craig Lesser expressed concerns about negotiations being undone by a new mayoral administration, Manson is optimistic about garnering support. 

“I think the city has been committed as many years as I’ve been here for providing the services that we provide,” he said. “That's not going to change even with the new administration.”  

The board also voted to meet monthly, rather the quarterly, amid plans to create a new hospital by the time the safety net hospital’s current lease ends in 2027. The next meeting is set for June 29 at 4 p.m.

Hannah Herner joined the Nashville Post to cover health care in 2022. She previously worked for The Contributor street paper and freelanced for the Nashville Scene.