The Baldwin County Commissioners approved the resolution supporting the Oconee Regional Medical Center's borrowing of up to $30 million to refinance existing bond debt and provide new monies Tuesday.
The board voted 4-0 in favor with Tommy French, District 2, abstaining due to spousal hospital employment.
“I know this has been a long process, and I assure you that myself and the board will do everything we can to make use of this tool the best we can for the patients,” ORMC CEO Jean Aycock said. “That's what it's all about as we move this forward.”
Operating through the Georgia Hospital Authorities Law, ORMC asked for a county ad valorem tax pledge not to exceed 3 mills for 15 years.
The current bond interest rate is 5.34 percent. ORMC estimates the county tax pledge would drop the rate up to 2 percent, saving the hospital between $300,000 and $400,000 a year.
The net proceeds would be used to call and redeem $24.7 million worth of bonds, pay off a $810,000 BB&T note and fund the acquisition of $4 million in hardware and software upgrades required by the HITECH Act.
According to Aycock, the savings will help offset the millions of dollars in charity and indigent care being provided to Baldwin County citizens.
ORMC provided $3.6 million of charity and indigent care costs for Baldwin County residents in fiscal year 2012 and wrote off $5.6 million of bad debts for citizens.
This free care has overwhelmed the staff. Savings are a positive step towards addressing this issue.
“The hospital is not asking us for a dime. They are asking us to be their partner in achieving lower expenses to better deal with significant issues,” Henry Craig, District 4, said. “There is no reason to expect that our indigent care is going to get any better. What we can do is give the hospital the tools to improve how they deal with our community's medical crisis that is going to increase.”