CEO: Madison facility would threaten Athens hospital
By By Thomas Tingle
Record Managing Editor
A proposed 120-bed for profit hospital in Madison has officials at Athens-Limestone Hospital fearing the possible closure of that facility and the loss of more than 650 jobs.
Phil Dotson, CEO of Athens-Limestone Hospital, said if the hospital proposal is approved by the Statewide Health Coordinating Council, it could mean Athens would no longer have a community hospital.
"It's just that serious," Dotson said.
An advertisement published in the Aug. 21 edition of The News-Courier entitled "Montgomery politics could cause our hospital to close" called the proposal a "backroom deal – Montgomery style – is being put together that could cause Limestone County to lose our local hospital."
Dotson said the area already has more than 300 additional hospital beds than needed and a new hospital in Madison would be devastating to the residents of Athens, particularly the senior citizens who depend on the hospital for their health and well being.
"It could also cause Limestone County to lose more than 650 jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy," Dotson said. "Even worse, the proposal is not even allowed under Alabama's current state health plan. Triad/Crestwood wants to adjust the state health plan to allow the additional beds in Madison County."
The ad continued in reading that "To get what they want, Triad/Crestwood has made large political contributions, hired expensive Montgomery insiders and greased the tracks."
Triad/Crestwood has proposed building a $60 million 120-bed hospital in the city of Madison. Property is already being sought and the Statewide Health Coordinating Council could make a decision as early as Aug. 29.
Dotson said in looking at the zip codes that Crestwood Hospital has identified as its service area, more than $4.6 million from those living in portions of those zip codes comes to Athens-Limestone Hospital. He said six percent of the admissions into the hospital come from the identified zip codes.
"That is a lot of money that we could possibly lose," Dotson said. "Something else that needs to be considered is if this hospital is built in Madison, it could mean the closure of this facility or an end to a community based, community owned hospital."
Officials from Athens-Limestone Hospital plan to attend the meeting and are asking residents to contact Gov. Don Siegelman, who appoints the council, with their concerns.
"If they win, we lose," Dotson said. "The Athens City Council, Limestone County Commission, Athens-Limestone Chamber of Commerce and our local Economic Development Association and other groups are opposed to this."
Athens-Limestone Hospital is a non-profit medical facility.