Among public hospitals throughout the country, Erlanger Health System provides the greatest amount of safety-net care for the least amount of local government funding, a national public hospital association has determined.

"I've never seen anything quite like it -- just the lack of support versus the huge size of mission," said Dr. Bruce Siegel, the president of America's Essential Hospitals, a national advocate for public hospitals that tracks their funding.

While the average public hospital tracked by the organization receives $121 million from local governments, Erlanger's $1.5 million from Hamilton County is the only local public funding it can pit against what is expected to be $92 million in regional uncompensated care this year alone.

Most hospitals receiving minimal local funds can turn to federally backed state funds meant for safety-net care. But Tennessee lost access to those dollars at the end of last year.

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