The Greater Bristol Visiting Nurse Association called a last-minute $70,000 cut in the contribution it receives from the city “grossly disturbing” and likely to create “a devastating effect” on patients it serves.
The city’s decision “to just about wipe away our current allocation” after half a century of support will have “grave consequences” for the poor people the money has long helped the nursing group serve, said Anne Dolson, the association’s president.
Dolson said the century-old nonprofit already faces a deficit this year of as much as $50,000 and can’t afford to continue providing services to the indigent if the city’s donation drops to just $100.
Though the group pleaded for the city to restore the funding, Mayor Art Ward said he’s “not sure that we can” reverse the decision now that the budget for the coming fiscal year is finished.
“We’ll take it under advisement,” said Roald Erling, vice chairman of the city’s Board of Finance.
The nursing group said it plans to tell patients and the community about the cuts in the hope of creating a groundswell of support that will convince political leaders to find the cash needed to pay for well-child clinics, nursing visits for chronically ill but poor elderly patients and others.
“We can’t do it without your help,” said Maryellen Frele, the acting chief operating officer of the association.
City officials said that in their quest to lower the mill rate, they drastically cut the VNA because it possesses a $1.5 million reserve fund, enough to allow it to cope with a one-year decrease by City Hall.
But the association’s leaders said the money in its rainy day fund is badly needed so it can deal with changes in the medical field, including greater use of costly technology.
Tapping the cash, said Frele, “would be fiscally irresponsible of us.”
As it is, she said, the group provided $194,000 worth of care to people who could not pay last year and expects to lose $280,000 on care for the poor this year.
“Our current community is really suffering,” Frele said, and the need for free and reduced cost care has never been higher.
The nursing association said there are three groups of city residents who will get clobbered if the city money isn’t restored: elderly patients with limited incomes, mentally ill patients who lack insurance and in-home care for mothers with newborns and children of the poor who need immunizations.
Frele said there is a growing need to care for mentally ill people in their homes to make sure they get their medicine. Without that care, she said, some will turn to crime and wind up in prison, costing society far more than the nursing care they need.
The group said it also hopes to have more well-child clinics to help families that fall through the insurance cracks get the medical attention that children require, including immunization for potentially deadly diseases. There have been four clinics this year. Ten are needed next year, the group said.
There are at least 11 patients in Bristol who have been receiving free nursing in their homes for more than five years, the association said.
Disrupting their care will “most likely precipitate an inpatient hospitalization for the chronically ill elderly,” Dolson said in a letter, which basically shifts the expense from the city to Bristol Hospital.
It isn’t clear what options the nonprofit has to pressure the city to increase aid, but it’s possible that association officials may try to convince city councilors to take action to help.
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