A citizens group in Bartow, Fla., is fighting Polk County's decision to close its financially struggling 131-bed hospital and contract with competing hospitals to operate its five indigent-care clinics.
Polk General Hospital, which until three years ago only admitted indigent patients, will shut down inpatient operations Sept. 30, a spokeswoman said.
The decision to close the hospital came less than one week after Walter Donalson, Polk General's administrator for seven years, resigned. Donalson cited personal reasons.
However, the day before Donalson resigned, a county audit revealed Polk General is losing $1.3 million a month. It suggested commissioners were unaware of the hospital's declining financial condition.
By September, the hospital is expected to exhaust its $7 million reserve account, the audit said. Its annual revenues totaled $33 million in 1994.
In 1992 and 1993 combined, Polk General reported earning a total of $2.5 million on revenues of $64 million, according to HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company. Its assets totaled $20.4 million with liabilities of $2.3 million, HCIA said.
To keep the hospital operating, the audit concluded that Polk County would be required to provide $14 million to $16 million a year in tax subsidies. The hospital now receives $8.9 million in county property taxes.
"My greatest concern is that the doctors have not had their input and the employees will be significantly impacted by this," said Virginia Cummings-Lang, president of Concerned Citizens of Polk County, a group that includes some of the hospital's 300 employees.
Concerned Citizens has staged rallies outside of the hospital to show support, Cummings-Lang said. "We don't think the public has been properly informed about all the options," she said.
As part of the closure, Polk County officials are considering a plan to continue to operate the hospital's five indigent clinics in Bartow, Winter Haven and Lakeland, said Gwen Richardson, a hospital representative.
In April four competing hospitals submitted a plan to take over the county's clinics. The hospitals are Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Winter Haven Hospital, Lake Wales (Fla.) Medical Centers and Bartow Memorial Hospital, Richardson said.
"Our census is down to 30%, and managed care is sending our patients to other hospitals," Richardson said. "We don't need the inpatient side of our hospital anymore."
Richardson said that in 1992 the hospital began admitting Medicaid, Medicare and private-paying patients to increase its revenues. But in the past year, Richardson said the hospital has been losing those patients to competing hospitals.