Hospitals say grant program set up by legislature isn’t helping as expected

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 11:02 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s struggling hospitals should be getting access to more than $100,000,000 in grant funding. But a technicality during the legislative session is putting up a roadblock to the money.

Hospital help is among the bragging points of lawmakers in the 2023 session.

“This makes sure that everybody does receive funds as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Sam Mims during a floor presentation in late March.

WLBT learned that’s not happening.

“As soon as we and the people around the state got a chance to look at it, it was there was an immediate Oh, no. It’s not nearly as robust or nearly as useful or beneficial as we had hoped,” Chief Medical Officer and Interim CEO of South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel Dr. Mark Horne said.

Winston Medical Center’s CEO Paul Black says frustrated is a mild way of putting it.

“It leaves us instead of getting what was supposed to be about $922,000 getting nothing because we’re not going to qualify for anything,” described Black.

So, maybe you’re saying, “Wait, did the lawmakers help the hospitals or not?”

They said they were setting up a grant program. But Black says by funding that with federal ARPA dollars, it turned it into a reimbursement program.

“The issue with us and a lot of others is that is that we’ve already claimed all those expenses on the Cares Act, money that we received all throughout the pandemic,” explained Black. “And we can’t claim them again under this program. I don’t think they understood the magnitude of what, what those restrictions are on the ARPA money as far as it goes to hospitals. I just don’t think they understood.”

Horne says his Chief Financial Officer believes they’ll qualify for at least some of the money, but not in the format they first expected.

“Instead of having quick money that can be broadly used for immediate needs, is delayed money that goes through a tremendous amount of approval and reporting and uncertainty,” said Horne.

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