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Sewell Announces her Opposition to Closing Inpatient Care at Cooper Green

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D) from Selma released a written statement on Wednesday to announce that she is adding her voice to the growing opposition to ending inpatient care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

Representative Sewell said, “The recent decision to close inpatient services at this facility will undoubtedly have a negative impact on countless citizens in Jefferson County. While I know that we as a county are facing some tough financial times, we must still protect services that are crucial to the citizens of the 7th Congressional District. I share the concerns of other local leaders who have united together in opposition to this decision. Protecting the health and well-being of our community must remain a top priority. We must work together to find meaningful solutions that protect Cooper Green and the vital indigent care services that it offers our community.”

Jefferson County is currently in bankruptcy. Alabama’s largest county borrowed $billions to spend on sewer improvements and new schools. When the economy deteriorated in 2008, the county was unable to pay its mounting bills. Federal corruption investigations sent several former Jefferson County Commissioners to prison for their role in bilking the taxpayers out of hundreds of $millions in overpriced unbid bond deals and sewer work in exchange for bribes.

To make the situation worse, the courts ruled that Jefferson County had been collecting an occupation tax on its citizens illegally for years. Efforts to restore the unpopular payroll tax have since repeatedly died in the state legislature. The Jefferson County bankruptcy is the largest goverment bankruptcy in the history of the United States.  The bankrupt county owns the aging hospital. Cooper Green is a 319 bed general care hospital that was established in 1972 to care for the indigent of Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham (where Cooper Green is located) has been in a state of decline for 50 years. The city’s population peaked in 1960 at 340,000. Today the population has plummeted to just 212,247 in the 2010 Census (including a 30,000 population drop since 2000). The U.S. Census is predicting that Montgomery will surpass Birmingham within the next three years as Alabama’s largest city and that Birmingham will drop to the number three city in Alabama by the end of the decade. As the population of the former steel town disperses to other towns and communities, aging infrastructure, like Cooper Green Mercy Hospital and the Birmingham City School System, are increasingly less utilized as the former patients and students go elsewhere. Cooper Green’s 319 beds are rarely fully utilized anymore, but bankrupt Jefferson County is still having to pay for that staff and infrastructure. Hundreds of people work at Cooper Green and they make up a powerful constituency demanding that the old hospital remain open even though the hospital loses over $10 million a year in addition to its earmarked indigent care funds.

On August 7th the Jefferson County Commission voted 3-2 to end in-patient care at Cooper Green potentially saving the cash strapped county $millions. On Friday, Birmingham Mayor William Bell announced that the City of Birmingham is suing the Jefferson County Commission to prevent the closing of the old hospital.

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Congresswoman Sewell represents much of the City of Birmingham.

Sewell is seeking a second term in the U.S. Congress. Her Republican opponent for Alabama’s seventh district is Don Chamberlain from Selma.

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.



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