By Rep. Allen Farley
Mercy Hospital was opened in Birmingham in 1972. In 1975 the name was changed to Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. It originally opened its doors as a 319-bed general-care hospital. Today Cooper Green Mercy Hospital is a 141-bed general-care hospital.
Funding for indigent care in Jefferson County was established by the Alabama Legislature in 1965, using revenues collected from county sales and liquor taxes.
The following data was provided in a report to the Jefferson County Commission in April, 2011. It was the result of a study conducted by FTI Consulting:
Based on FY 2010 records, $75 MM of Jefferson County tax receipts were directly and/or indirectly allocated for healthcare services via Cooper Green Mercy Hospital [$51 MM] and the Department of Health (“JCDOH”) [$24 MM].
JCDOH (an Alabama State Board of Health supervised and controlled entity) had an operating surplus (audited) of $4.2 MM and has accumulated cash and investments totaling $72.5 MM (audited).
Cooper Green Mercy Hospital (a JCC supervised and controlled entity) had an operating deficit, before capital costs, of $9.0 MM in FY 2010 (unaudited).
Cooper Green inpatient and surgical services have very low volumes.
On page 17 of the 2011 FTI Consulting report to the Jefferson County Commission it states the following:
It is unlikely the prospective financial needs of Cooper Green can be satisfied without incremental tax receipts.
Several strategic options have been considered for resolving the current situation:
Right-Sizing – Performance Improvement
Down-Sizing – Modify Operations Scope
Take a New Approach to Indigent Care
Combine Services with Department of Health
Form Public/Private Partnership
Transition from Provider to Payer
Convert to a Self-Governing Entity
As a precaution to a potential liquidity crisis, Cooper Green should prepare an emergency closure plan.
(Commissioner Bowman’s office had oversight of this area, and was provided copies of FTI’s draft report prior to its release to the full commission. This report cost Jefferson County $860K).
Currently Cooper Green Mercy Hospital has a staff of approximately 600. A Cooper Green Mercy Hospital 2012 report states a daily inpatient number of 41. However, the following numbers provided by Commission Knight’s office show amounts Jefferson County paid for “outside staffing agencies” for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in 2012:
Rural Metro Ambulance service has billed Jefferson County for transporting patients from Cooper Green Mercy Hospital to UAB Hospital from August 17, 2011 through March 31, 2012. Their invoices list 242 trips over 7 months totaling $47,863.88.
Commissioner Jimmie Stephens has voiced an alarming statistic in 2 Jefferson County Commission Committee Meetings I recently attended. He told the other commissioners and everyone in attendance, including the news media, that “every month Cooper Green Mercy Hospital stays open it costs the Jefferson County General Fund and additional $850,000.00.”
Over the past two years the majority of the “Legislative Delegation” meetings I attended, (as a member of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation), were focused on Jefferson County’s financial crisis. In April of 2012 I attended a meeting with 9 of our Legislative Delegation members, Republican and Democrat, which focused totally on Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. There was even a power point presentation by Dr. Max Michael that showed the need to provide better care to Jefferson County’s indigent population by creating a Cooper Green Outpatient Clinic, and eliminating the current hospital model. This meeting lasted all day.
(Dr. Max Michael is a Dean of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was on the original staff of physicians when Cooper Green opened in 1972. He later also served as Director of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital).
The Jefferson County Commission received a report in April of 2011 from FTI that included a section on Cooper Green. It stated that the current Cooper Green Mercy Hospital model was not working. That report cost our bankrupt county $860,000.00.
We have invoices from Rural Metro Ambulance Service that total $47,863.88 for transporting patients from Cooper Green Mercy Hospital to UAB Hospital over a 7 month period from August 17, 2011 – March 31, 2012.
We have invoices totaling $1,234,716.35 from an outside “staffing agency” for providing staffing for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital from January 2012 through May 2012. (Remember, Cooper Green Mercy Hospital has a staff of approximately 600 with an impatient average of 41 patients per day).
Food For Thought: Jefferson County is bankrupt. This financial disaster began with elected officials using a sewer system like an ATM.
- 55% of Jefferson County residents are sewer customers.
- 30% of Jefferson County’s poor use Cooper Green.
- 70% of Jefferson County’s poor use UAB and other area hospitals.
- IT’S NOT ABOUT THE POOR!!!!!
In Closing: Jefferson County is the most populated county in Alabama. We have a listing of 1474 faith families, (congregations), of various denominations. However, Jefferson County is responsible for approximately one third of the state prison population. When I goggled “Birmingham, Al Hospitals” I discovered that we are blessed with 74 different hospital and medical clinics, (some are world class), in the metro area of Birmingham. However, we have Alabama’s only county owned indigent hospital.
Once again I was drawn to my Bible In search of some understanding:
Zechariah 11:(16-17) For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs. Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!
God Bless America