Chattanooga councilman criticizes county's Erlanger contributions
A Chattanooga city council member has ruffled some feathers after making a public statement about the Hamilton County government and the amount of money it provides Erlanger.
City Councilman Moses Freeman said the county should be ashamed it does not give more money to the hospital.
The fact is, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, more commonly known as Erlanger, is getting half of the money it used to from local government. The county says that's the city's fault, while Freeman made it clear in a recent speech, he thinks the county government is failing.
Freeman took to the podium last week at an event celebrating National Health Centers Week. In his speech, he criticized county government's role in helping Erlanger cover costs for patients who cannot pay.
"The county ought to be ashamed of itself, calling itself Christians and that's one of the things Christ taught, you take care of the sick. If you don't do nothing else, Christians take care of the sick and they're not doing that," Freeman said.
He said for decades Erlanger received $3 million from the county, and now only gets $1.5 million.
"They've actually decreased their responsibility. I couldn't let a moment like this pass without telling that truth," Freeman said.
But Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry says that's not the whole truth.
"Before comments of that nature are made by elected officials, they really ought to look at what the schematics are and what the past has been," Henry said.
The $3 million yearly donation came through a city-county sales tax agreement, in which each body contributed $1.5 million. When that agreement ended in 2011, the city stopped giving any money to Erlanger and the county didn't pick up the city's half.
"Hamilton County, we are doing our part and we will continue to do our part," Henry said.
In Freeman's remarks, he said the county should not only meet the $3 million, but should give more to cover indigent care costs, that includes for jail inmates.
"Budget restraints are what they are. I wish we could give more to Erlanger," Henry said.
Commissioner Henry says he also thinks Erlanger could still maintain operations without the county's contribution.