Hospital decision delayed

By Staff
Thomas Tingle
Record Managing Editor
Will Alabama's 12th largest city ever get its own hospital?
A decision that could have allowed an additional 120 beds in Madison County has been put on hold indefinitely. The Statewide Health Coordinating Council tabled the issue at its Dec. 4 meeting in Montgomery due to the lack of quorum to vote.
As a result, Crestwood Hospital officials and Madison residents will now have to wait until after the new year before a decision is made. In a statement read by the council's chairman, Frank Brown, Governor-elect Bob Riley asked the council to carry over the issue so that his newly appointed council could handle it.
Crestwood CEO Brad Jones said he's not giving up and he'll go back to Montgomery again to present his request to a new council.
Crestwood Hospital has proposed building a 120-bed full service hospital in Madison. However, in order for Crestwood to move forward with those plans, it must first get approval by the council to adjust the State Health Plan that would allow the additional beds in the county.
Jones said he was surprised by the outcome of the Dec. 4 meeting, hoping that a decision would have been made then. However, he said in talking with Riley, Riley told him the issue of getting a hospital in Madison is something he could see supporting. Jones said Riley told him that he needs more information into the matter.
"We will continue to educate Madison residents on this issue and we will continue to educate our newly-elected governor and our legislators on the issue," Jones said. "Our proposal is based on fact – not politics. I think there was a lot of politics involved in the outcome of the Dec. 4 meeting."
Access is the key issue in this matter the State Health Plan adjusted.
"With the growing number of seniors moving into Madison, there simply isn't going to be enough hospital beds to meet the needs," Jones said. "There is a significant need for a hospital in Madison due to the increased population of the area, westward growth of Madison County and the need for quality care."
CEO's from across the state though had planned to protest the additional 120 beds, stating it would be the first time a facility with new beds would be added in contradiction to the plan.
Huntsville Hospital also has plans to build a full service hospital in Madison. However, according to Austin, a 120-bed hospital is not needed at this time but his facility would be a full-service hospital and could be expanded as demand warranted it. He proposes moving beds out of its Huntsville campus to Madison.
John Allen, president of the Citizens For Madison's Hospital, said his organization would continue to fight to get the State Health Plan changed. To date, more than 700 individuals have joined the group and a telephone number has been established to encourage residents to call in. Allen said more than 4,300 letters of support have been written in support of getting the plan adjusted.
"Madison may never again have a fighting chance to have it's own hospital – or at least an opportunity to have several options to choose from for a hospital, so it's important for Madison residents to be heard," Allen said. "If the health plan isn't changed, Madison could lose out."

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