By William F. Schmidt III, MD, PhD
We are fortunate to live in the Upstate. We live in a thriving, growing community where we look out for each other. One of the many benefits of living here is access to outstanding health care from our nonprofit, first-class health-care systems. At Greenville Health System (GHS), we are here for the community. As the safety-net hospital for the Upstate, we treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, supported by the amazingly generous donors who live in our region. Many people are unaware that not one penny of their tax money goes to support GHS, unlike most other places in the country where uncompensated care is provided by a tax-supported public hospital.
We are grateful to all of you who have been there for GHS over the years. GHS exists because of YOU. We exist because you have supported the organization since its founding in 1912 with your financial gifts, your talents, your enthusiasm, and your vision. You are always inspiring us to aim higher and constantly improve our care. Because of you, GHS offers everything from groundbreaking, nationally acclaimed cancer treatments unavailable at other hospitals to bone marrow transplants, a renowned Children’s Hospital, and medical and nursing schools to develop our future workforce. GHS provides high-quality specialty care so patients with complex medical problems can stay here with their families and friends instead of being forced to travel for treatments.
Being a safety-net hospital means more than not turning away our less fortunate neighbors. Yes, we provide health care for low-income individuals regardless of their insurance status and ability to pay. In 2017, the value to our community of this uncompensated care was $98.7 million in charity care and $96 million more in bad debt. Because we’re a nonprofit organization, we also develop and provide clinical services based upon the needs of the community, not upon their ability to generate shareholder profits required by for-profit hospitals. For example, GHS is not reimbursed for the cost of care provided to thousands of uninsured, indigent, and Medicaid patients each year. These patients receive care across all areas of GHS, from inpatient specialty units to emergency trauma services to ambulatory geriatric services — yet GHS receives no tax dollars to offset those unreimbursed costs.
I am asking for your support in keeping GHS as our local health system. As you may know, certain legislators within our state government previously introduced a bill proposing the sale of GHS to the highest bidder, with use of the proceeds to fund a variety of nonmedical public projects. If that were to happen, it is highly likely the purchasing corporation would be an out-of-state, for-profit organization without strong local relationships or commitment to the Upstate and the members of our community. Such organizations limit their uncompensated care to government-mandated evaluation, stabilization, and transfer; prioritize clinical services based upon return on investment; and pass profits to shareholders rather than reinvesting in the community to meet local needs.
It now appears priorities have been reconsidered and passage of a compromise bill is possible. I ask you to join me in encouraging our legislators to pass the current legislation and our governor to sign it into law, preserving GHS as one of our strong Upstate health-care systems. GHS is able to offer incredible health care to our local community because our community believes in us and supports us. We are community members caring for each other.
Don’t let YOUR health-care system be sold off to serve the political motivations of others. Please call or email your legislators and tell them you strongly encourage permanent resolution of this issue in a way that allows GHS to successfully evolve in a rapidly changing national health-care landscape.
William F. Schmidt helped found GHS’ nationally recognized Children’s Hospital almost 30 years ago, fundamentally changing health care for children and families in the Upstate. He’s now vice president of development for the GHS Health Sciences Center and is physician leader for GHS’ Office of Philanthropy and Partnership.