Funding gap at hospital solved

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By ABBY SOUZA

Tuolumne General Hospital's need for money has been solved at least for this fiscal year.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to use money from both the county general fund's emergency money and a national tobacco lawsuit to help TGH with operating costs through June 30.

In the same motion, the board voted to put off a final decision on the amount of money it will give until the third-quarter budget review in two months. At that time, County Administrator C. Brent Wallace said county staff members will have a better idea of what TGH will need.

Board Chairman Mark Thornton, District 5, cast the only no vote.

"I think there's a better way," he said of covering the hospital's ongoing shortfall.

The board has required 1 percent of the general fund money to be kept in a contingency fund. The county's Assistant Auditor-Controller Deborah Russell and Wallace said there is slightly more than $1 million in the contingency fund now.

Wallace proposes giving all that money to TGH.

"There really is no other way," Russell said.

The other source the Tobacco Securitization fund has $1.2 million available for TGH, Wallace said. Securitization money that has been loaned to other county departments is being paid back. Under Wallace's proposal, TGH will get that money.

Originally, officials thought the $1.2 million from the tobacco settlement could help pay down TGH's $6 million debt to the county. That's the amount the hospital has borrowed over the past six years. The financially ailing hospital has also received $11 million from the county's general fund.

In the past, Russell has told the board she held off on giving tobacco money to TGH, expecting it would be used for operating costs and not to pay off the loan.

But, if county departments continue their paybacks and the hospital starts pulling out of the hole, Russell said there should be enough to pay off some of the TGH loan next year.

11500979
The Union Democrat
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