Thank you for your support

To patients, visitors, employees, volunteers, vendors, physicians, community leaders, donors, board members, we are grateful for the positive response to our efforts to gain state approval to provide open heart surgery. Thousands signed our petition, sent emails, penned letters and made calls on Floyd’s behalf to let state leaders know that our community wants a choice for open heart surgery. 

Our organization is thankful for the support of African American leaders, who saw the data and came to the same conclusion we did: something has to be done to address the disparity in mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases. African Americans have a significantly higher death rate from heart disease than their Caucasian counterparts. This issue is not unique to our communities.  It exists nationwide.  Floyd wants to be part of solutions for the communities we serve to reduce disparities, and we believe that, among other initiatives, providing open heart surgery will help us to do that.

Where Our Open Heart Surgery Request is Now

On June 30, we learned that the Department of Community Health (DCH) again did not rule in our favor.

We believe we have proven our case according to the CON rules and definitions, and we continue to believe that the state Department of Community Health is wrong. We will appeal, and now the location of our effort is going to be in the court system.

The Truth about Disparities and Our More Heart Initiative

We first identified this need in 2018 — more than two years ago.

It is wrong that opponents would accuse Floyd of using the current civil unrest in our country for political gain. Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was two years ago when Floyd applied for the CON.

From the very beginning, our efforts to gain approval to provide open heart surgery have been positive, built on a foundation of doing the right thing, improving our community and providing choice.

Erroneous and false statements are circulating regarding both Floyd’s open heart surgery CON application and Floyd’s subsequent grassroots effort to gain public support. Here are the facts:

Our application and grassroots initiative are based on disparities of care, not racism. Floyd identified the disparities, and the data proves that disparities exist. It is indisputable. African Americans die at a higher rate from major cardiovascular disease and have lower rates for open heart surgery that Caucasians.

Again, disparities are not unique to our service area. They occur elsewhere in Georgia and the United States. Disparities exist and can be correlated to low levels of income, lack of regular care, diabetes, hypertension, overall poor health, and other factors. It is well documented in public health and medical literature. Disparities of care do exist, and they also exist by race.

Floyd has not and will not accuse Redmond or any physician of actively discriminating or denying care to any patient. We don’t believe this happens, and it is completely false to assert otherwise.

The data speaks for itselfWe have placed links to this data on our website, with attribution, so you can confirm this information for yourself. I sincerely do hope you will take time to look at the data. You will find, as we did, that disparities exist, mortality rates are high, prices are high, and action needs to be taken.

The definition of disparity is “a great difference.” Redmond’s own filings reported that the percentage of African Americans who received open heart surgery in 2018 and 2019 were 4 percent and 5 percent. The percentage of African Americans in Floyd County is 15 percent (11 percent in our five-county service area)That difference is a disparity.

Similarly, the five-year (2014-2019), age-adjusted death rate for African Americans with major heart disease in Floyd County is 369.9. The same rate for Caucasian Americans is 297.2This difference is a disparity.

Charges, or prices, do matter. Our competitor said the price they charge doesn’t matter because patients receive a large discount. The charge for open heart surgery at Redmond in 2018 was $341,593. That is the third-highest charge in the state. Compare that price to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, which charged $216,651 or to Saint Francis Medical Center, which charged $160,342.

Quality of care will not suffer if Floyd and Redmond each have an open heart programIt is simply not true that quality would go down with two open heart programs.  And it is proven false by the company that owns Redmond, HCA.  HCA owns Redmond, and HCA operates in many markets with lower volume, high-quality open heart programs. It is just not true, and HCA’s own actions prove it.

Floyd patients would be served by the same physicians providing care at Redmond. Floyd has an outstanding cardiology program in place staffed by experienced, highly trained professionals who provide excellent care. Ask someone who has had a defibrillator or stent implanted at Floyd. They will tell you. Floyd already provides a high level of care. Floyd is committed to high quality and the same high quality would extend to our open heart surgery program.

What’s next?

While we work on our appeal, we are moving ahead with addressing the disparities that we have discovered. This is not new for Floyd. For more than 20 years we have conducted health screenings targeting blood pressure and diabetes, both known contributors to heart disease. More recently we have educated young, primarily Hispanic children and their families, about the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly. Our Polk Medical Center team has worked with the African American community in Polk County to address cardiovascular health. And, our diabetes educators have provided state-recognized diabetes prevention education in our community.

Now, we are intensifying our focus on heart disease disparities in our communities. Working with the African American leaders who supported our efforts, we are forming a health care disparities task force to further investigate the data and to formulate a plan for how together, we can make a difference.

At Floyd, we have experience in community outreach. Our mobile mammography coach, our school nurse and athletic trainer programs, and our hands-only CPR, Stop the Bleed and so many more programs show what a not for profit community hospital system can do in the communities it serves.

Redmond has provided open heart surgery for over 30 years and has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from cardiac surgery in that time. Where are the outreach programs?  It is time for a not-for-profit provider to be allowed to provide a choice for patients. Floyd will bring a comprehensive, community-based approach to address cardiovascular disease.

Stay tuned for more in the weeks and months to come.

 

Sincerely,
Kurt Stuenkel,
Floyd President and CEO