updated 4/9/2008 1:01:44 PM ET 2008-04-09T17:01:44

Grady Memorial Hospital has moved closer to completing an agreement that is expected to bring $300 million to the public trauma center.

The hospital's new nonprofit board on Monday signed a lease agreement that included a $200 million commitment from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

The donation will help pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements, which Grady officials have said total up to $600 million. What is unclear is how trauma care and ambulance services will be affected by recent decisions by the Legislature and Fulton County.

The first $50 million payment from the Woodruff Foundation is expected to be in the bank around May 1.

After months of secrecy and speculation, the donor was made public on Monday in a letter signed by Woodruff Foundation President Russell Hardin dated April 2. It was one of several requirements to be met before the Grady Hospital Corp. signed the lease agreement that will transfer daily control of Grady to the newly formed nonprofit board.

The foundation, which has more than $2.7 billion in assets, is named for the Robert Woodruff, who led the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. from 1923 until his death in 1985.

Among the other prerequisites to the lease was a $100 million fundraising commitment signed by board Chairman Pete Correll, written agreements from the Emory University and Morehouse medical schools to renegotiate their contracts with Grady and assurances of state support from the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Correll said after Monday's meeting that the board has had meetings with a fundraiser to map out a campaign to approach more potential donors, and that he expects the Woodruff donation to be a catalyst for more capital.

Founded in 1892, Grady Memorial, the city's only public hospital, has struggled financially for years as it treated the poorest of the poor. But now it has reached a crisis because of rising health care costs, dwindling government aid, a lack of paying customers and years of neglect — a situation not uncommon among urban hospitals like Grady that primarily serve the needy.


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