Shelby Baptist Medical Center denied request for open-heart services

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

After an almost two-year effort, a Shelby Baptist Medical Center request to offer open-heart surgical services at the Alabaster hospital was denied.

The state Certificate of Need board voted last Wednesday in Montgomery to deny the services, much to the dismay of hospital officials and local residents who were in attendance.

The nine-member CON Review Board vote was 4-2 with one member abstaining. Another member was absent. The chairman typically does not vote unless a tiebreaker is needed.

SBMC President Chuck Colvert said he was &uot;extremely disappointed.&uot;

&uot;We have gone through the procedure. We filed in 2000. We set up witnesses. We went through the administrative law judge. There were over 18,000 pages of exhibits. The judge deliberated for over a week and ruled the people of Shelby County deserve this.

&uot;And then, six members of a nine-member board with 30 minutes of review felt they knew more than Judge (Raymond) Bell who studied this for weeks and months.&uot;

Shelby Baptist Medical Center was forced to seek the board’s approval based on a state law.

The board, appointed by the governor, is made up of lay people and medical officials from throughout the state.

Hospitals must apply to the state to gain approval for projects which expand their

services &045; in this case, heart services.

In August 2000, SBMC announced its intentions to add open-heart surgery services at a cost of $3.7 million.

Brookwood Hospital in Jefferson County objected to Shelby Baptist’s intention, which forced the CON hearing.

Brookwood argued that approving Shelby Baptist’s request would further dilute an already-crowded group of Birmingham Metro area hospitals who provide open-heart services.

Brookwood contended those who offer the services are not working at capacity.

Shelby Baptist was hopeful of CON approval after Administrative Law Judge Raymond Bell Jr. advised the board to approve the application.

Bell held a hearing in December during which both Brookwood and Shelby Baptist presented their cases.

The hearing, held in Pelham, lasted for seven days, and testimony was presented by several Shelby County residents in favor of the heart services addition.

Marty Murphy, a spokesperson for Shelby Baptist, said the hospital was disappointed with the ruling and is seeking ways to appeal the decision.

&uot;We are considering our options and talking to our attorney,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;We feel like we had a strong case after the judge listened to both sides and studied the issues in detail. He ruled (in the hospital’s favor) … and we feel like there was merit to that.&uot;

In his 18-page ruling in favor of Shelby Baptist, Judge Bell noted that Shelby County was the fastest growing county in the state and that the hospital’s desire to expand its services had &uot;strong community support.&uot;

&uot;Shelby Baptist medical staff has the cardiology and cardiovascular resources to implement and maintain a quality open-heart program,&uot; Bell wrote.

&uot;Shelby Baptist’s application for the addition of open-heart surgery meets each and every criteria set forth,&uot; he wrote, noting Alabama law concerning healthcare.

Murphy said he was thankful for the support the hospital received during its effort to obtain the services, noting the cities of Alabaster, Calera, Montevallo, Vincent, Wilsonville and Pelham as well as the Shelby County Commission approved

resolutions expressing support.

Murphy said he also was pleasantly surprised that two busloads of more than 50 residents traveled to Montgomery to hear the closing arguments in the hearing on Wednesday.

&uot;I was pleased with all the support we received, not to mention all the education these people received about the process,&uot; Murphy said.

&uot;Somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose.&uot;

Murphy said the hospital will continue its efforts to obtain open-heart services for the fastest growing county in the state of Alabama.

&uot;This does not mean this is over. I still believe this hospital will one day provide open-heart services to Shelby County and the surrounding areas,&uot; he said.

In the meantime, Brookwood representatives said they were pleased with the CON ruling.

&uot;Brookwood Medical Center has been providing services to the residents of Shelby County for the past 30 years,&uot; said hospital spokesperson April Holcomb.

&uot;We will continue to offer high quality cardiac services.&uot;