Sessions tours hospital’s new women’s center

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions was at Shelby Baptist Medical Center for the opening of the Alabaster hospital’s new Center for Women’s Health.

Sessions listened to concerns from select members of the hospital staff and administration

before touring the 10,000 square-foot facility, which includes a new labor and delivery unit.

&uot;This is a first rate facility with a first rate staff,&uot; Sessions said. &uot;This expansion is just exciting.

&uot;This hospital has over 1,000 births a year, which is a big deal,&uot; he said. &uot;Some hospitals are lucky to have even 200.&uot;

Sessions walked through the facility, stopping to shake hands and talk with hospital workers.

Marty Murphy, spokesperson for Shelby Baptist, said the Medical Center was honored to have Sessions on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

&uot;We have asked our congressional representatives to lobby Congress for money,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;Because Sen. Sessions is one of those representatives we have asked him to come look at the place and dedicate the opening of this new unit.&uot;

One of Sessions’ top campaign issues in the recent election was the reform of Medicare and related health care programs. At a luncheon before the ribbon cutting, Sessions took time to listen to concerns and take questions from hospital staff. Among those concerns raised were a shortage of nurses, increased liability insurance and problems associated with federal wage-index calculations.

The wage index is a formula the federal government uses to reimburse hospitals for care they provide to patients who qualify for federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The wage index uses factors such as the cost of labor, differentiating between large urban facilities and all other hospitals.

The system is particulary harmful to hospitals in Alabama because labor costs in Alabama hospitals can be as high as those in large urban areas due to a high level of competition, according to Rosemary Blackman, of the Alabama Hospital Association.

Blackman said two-thirds of Alabama hospitals were &uot;operating in the red&uot; in 2000 because they were not taking in enough money to cover the cost of care provided.

&uot;This hospital has helped us understand just how harmful the wage index can be,&uot; Sessions said. &uot;That’s why I’ve made that one of my top healthcare priorities.

&uot;It’s going to be tough because a lot of groups are fighting for the same funds,&uot; he said. &uot;But it is important we fight for these healthcare issues because a lot of our hospitals are put at a financial risk.&uot;

Another concern raised by hospital staff was increases in liability insurance.

&uot;Liability insurance has doubled over the last two years,&uot; Sessions said. &uot;That’s not helping healthcare.&uot;

Sessions said that the best chance for reform was in the state legislature. He went on to say he would support additional funding for healthcare issues such as the reform of Medicare.

Before concluding his talk at the luncheon, Sessions expressed his appreciation for the efforts and concerns of the hospital and its staff.

&uot;Thank you for all the work that you do here,&uot; he said. &uot;It is so important for everyone here in the county and the state of Alabama.&uot;