Bill calls for sale of GHS, funds to be reinvested in community - FOX Carolina 21

Bill calls for sale of GHS, funds to be reinvested in community

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GHS Cancer Center (FOX Carolina/File) GHS Cancer Center (FOX Carolina/File)

The Upstate's largest health system and some Greenville County lawmakers already have tumultuous relationship - and a new bill introduced in February is no different.

The bill which was read for the first time on Feb. 15 calls for the sale of the Greenville Health System in a competitive bidding process and for all people in executive positions within GHS 501(c)(3) organizations to vacate the premises.

Many of the legislators sponsoring the bill -- Rep. Gary Smith, Rep. Mike Burns, Rep. Dwight Loftis, Rep. Bill Chumley and Rep. Leoala Robinson-Simpson -- previously wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in 2016, calling the healthcare system a "monopolistic powerhouse answerable to no one."

The representatives asked for a FTC investigation into GHS, and later requested an investigation by the Attorney General, citing concerns about the system's 'explosive' expansion and claiming it now has 75 to 100 percent of the market share in the Upstate.

Rep. Ashley Trantham joins the lawmakers sponsoring the newly-introduced H. 4945, which is currently in the judiciary committee.

Robinson-Simpson said the representatives on the bill are all in favor of better serving the people of the Upstate and believe funds from the sale of GHS could be put toward the school system and the community. She said the lawmakers want to find some intelligent ways of maximizing the resources of GHS, which they say belong to the people.

Spokesperson for the Greenville Health System Sandy Dees issued the following statement on the bill:

Greenville Health System has been providing high-quality health care to our community for more than a century. Led by local members of our community, our top priority is improving the health of the people we serve – today and in the future.

Unfortunately, the most recent attack on locally owned, not-for-profit health care includes proposed legislation from a handful of local politicians that would force the sale of Greenville Health System assets. This latest political effort is another attempt at doing something that is not in the best interest of the community.

The best healthcare organizations are locally led by medical experts, not politicians. It’s time to put politics aside and let the physicians, nurses, caregivers and local community leaders on our boards do what they do best – ensure the strongest healthcare future for the patients and communities we serve.

We will not let these latest actions distract us from what truly matters – our singular focus of providing high-quality health care for all members of the community. Protecting access to locally controlled, not-for-profit health care is essential to the well-being of our community.

Sen. Tom Corbin, who is part of the Greenville County legislative delegation with concerns about GHS, said he is troubled by the path of the health system. Corbin said he supports the bill and also supports a lawsuit filed by delegation members contesting their governance plan, which gave control of the system to “newly formed private corporations, created by the Greenville Health System Board, for the sum of just $1 per year for the next 100 years.”

Robinson-Simpson, along with Reps. Burns, Smith, Loftis and Chumley, also sponsored H. 4944 which calls for a referendum vote to be held during the 2018 general election to determine if the citizens of Greenville County support the current GHS structure or not. It is also currently in committee.

In an op-ed letter, the representatives are joined by Senators Corbin and Shane Martin in saying their trust in GHS was shaken when the board "unilaterally restructured and leased our publicly-owned, multibillion dollar asset without the legislative delegation's input or consent as law requires."

They believe the bill to sell GHS is the best solution to the problem, allowing the system to move forward as a private entity. According to the letter, funds from the sale would be used to replace "aging and dangerous" school buses, support workforce development, and to support services for low-income students and families.

"The time has come for the government to divest itself from non-essential assets, especially when the private market will provide a better product," the letter states. "Most importantly, it is time for those with lawful authority to make a decision on a path forward from this controversy – and this is the most responsible decision."

Read the full op-ed letter below:

Stay with FOX Carolina for updates on this developing story.

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