How to Help Your Local Hospital during COVID-19

May 19, 2020 – In the best of times, it’s important that rural communities have access to health care. In the worst of times – one could argue that describes the COVID-19 outbreak – it’s especially critical. But coronavirus isn’t just a threat to public health, it also impacts infrastructure, such as the rural hospitals communities are counting on for life-saving care.

“Rural hospitals throughout Georgia, including our Camden Campus, are experiencing significant decreases in revenue due to coronavirus,” says Michael D. Scherneck, president and CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “To protect our community and to ensure the availability of critical resources for coronavirus patients, we temporarily postponed elective surgeries and procedures. Our physician offices also postponed procedures and did not see as many patients. We’re doing our part to slow the spread of coronavirus, but it is not without financial consequences.”

Right now, the Camden Campus needs the community’s support more than ever. “There is an easy way our community can help. The Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program allows Georgia state taxpayers to give back to rural hospitals that have given so much to their communities before and during this crisis.”

The program allows Georgia taxpayers to redirect their 2020 state income taxes to improve health care in their communities, thereby ensuring family and friends have access to quality care close to home.

The Georgia General Assembly enacted the Georgia HEART (Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment) hospital tax credit program to help rural hospitals struggling to stay open, but hospitals aren’t the only entities that benefit. The program offers a 100% state income tax credit to Georgia taxpayers and C-Corporations that donate funds through the program to hospitals that qualify, and for the second year in a row, the Health System’s Camden Campus qualifies for this innovative program.

By redirecting what you would have paid toward state income tax to the HEART program, you help rural hospitals, such as the Camden Campus, add new services, purchase technology, recruit physicians and offer additional health programs and screenings. In 2019, the Health System used its HEART funds to add 3D Mammography to the Camden Campus radiology department. This innovative technology is the most effective screening method for breast cancer, and early detection can increase the chances of patient survival. The Health System had committed the 2020 HEART funds to build a new Wound Care Center on the Camden Campus. That project is now complete and the opening has been delayed until early summer because of the pandemic. A more immediate priority for the HEART funds, however, is to help provide for the personnel and other resources that have been required to support the Health System’s COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.

“The beauty of the HEART program is that it allows taxpayers to keep their state tax dollars close to home, where it benefits family, friends and themselves,” Scherneck says. “It also allows hospitals to direct the donations to areas of greatest need.”

Scherneck adds, “Rural hospitals like the Camden Campus fill a vital need. The tax credit program is an excellent way to improve access to medical care and the quality of that care, without impacting household finances. It’s an easy way to feel better about paying taxes, knowing that your dollars helped improve health care in your own community. In a time when many people feel powerless, this program empowers them to strengthen their community. It truly is a win-win for everyone.”

The process to participate in this program is easy and takes less than five minutes. Simply complete a brief application, found at sghs.org/ga-tax-credit or at georgiaheart.org.

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