Ocean City Today

AGH donation tabled for planning sessions

City Council considers how hospital serves resort, but majority wanted later talks
By Katie Tabeling | Aug 03, 2017
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(Aug. 4, 2017) Ocean City Council Secretary Mary Knight advocated funding Atlantic General Hospital’s regional cancer center during a discussion of a second budget amendment this week, but the request was once again tabled for strategic planning sessions next month.

During Tuesday’s work session, Budget Manger Jennie Knapp proposed an amendment that would increase the fiscal year 2017 budget by $9.84 million, which would be covered by various grants, excess revenue, savings and drawing $1.65 million from the fund balance. But Knight made a motion to consider funding the Atlantic General Hospital for $100,000 based on a report on how the facility serves Ocean City.

“In 2016, there were about 3,000 [emergency] transports and 90 percent went to AGH, which is 10 miles away. The other nine percent went to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, which is 30 miles away,” she said. “PRMC’s turnaround is two hours. You’re spending more time on fuel and wear and tear of our medical units.”

Knight said that the amortization of Ocean City ambulances is roughly 10 years. If the resort transported solely to PRMC, the vehicles amortization would be reduced to five years and would increase the budget by $370,000.

“There’s no numbers to show what our personnel costs would be, but logically, you’d know you’d need more crews if we’re [just] going to PRMC,” she said. “I wanted to see where we were with the second budget amendment before saying this.

“It’s suggestion, it’s emotion,” Knight continued. “It’s bothered me very much that we have not been able to fund the hospital.”

Last April, the City Council rejected the Atlantic General Hospital’s request of $200,000 during budget sessions. Councilman Wayne Hartman at the time said it was another case of the resort paying for duplicate services, as the commissioners allocated $175,000 for the hospital in the county FY18 budget. That includes a $75,000 annual commitment and $100,000 to build the John H. “Jack” Burbage Jr. Regional Cancer Care Center.

This week, Hartman supported Knight’s motion, citing that new evidence proved him wrong.

“I still think our donation policy needs to be looked at, but if we were running 2,700 calls to PRMC with a two-hour turnaround time versus AGH’s 40 minutes, it would double our needs,” Hartman said. “If [AGH] wasn’t here, then our costs would be so much greater.”

Councilman John Gehrig cautioned against including a new donation haphazardly in the budget amendment.

“This is coming out of nowhere. We’ve talked about including this in a financial strategic plan,” he said. “No one is disagreeing with the impact of the hospital. It’s a delicate issue, because the hospital is critically important. But this is a matter of how we have decided to operate in terms of spending money.”

Council President Lloyd Martin, Councilmen Dennis Dare and Tony DeLuca and Mayor Rick Meehan agreed.

“I support tabling this, and I think we’re moving forward to have these conversations, and there’s best served in strategic planning sessions,” Meehan said. “It appears to me that once a decision is made, we’re going to be supporting AGH.”

Knight and Hartman rescinded the motion, but not without final thoughts.

“We keep putting things off for strategic planning sessions,” Hartman said. “To me, that’s for talking about a campus plan and where the money’s coming for this. This is almost about our annual operating expense… it seems like we’re getting off course.”

The motion to move the second budget amendment to first meeting passed unanimously.

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