Open heart hearing set for SBMC

A circuit court judge next Wednesday will determine whether Shelby County’s only hospital can provide open heart surgery or if residents will have to continue to cross county lines for such care.

Shelby Baptist Medical Center filed a civil suit against the State Health Planning and Development Agency after being denied a request to begin open heart services at the Alabaster hospital last April.

The appeal represents the latest action by the hospital in an almost three-year pursuit of open heart services.

Circuit Court Judge Hub Herrington will hand down a decision from his bench at the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana at the March 12 hearing.

If approved, Shelby Baptist would have the first and only open heart surgery program in Shelby County.

Currently, hospital patients requiring the full range of cardiac treatment must be transported to Birmingham.

&uot;This occurs through some of the worst traffic congestion in the state, and in cardiac treatment, the physicians testified this is much more than just an inconvenience: the current situation is a tragedy waiting to happen and that the patient’s life is at risk each time such a transport occurs,&uot; according to a brief filed on behalf of Shelby Baptist.

Shelby Baptist originally applied for a certificate of need for an open heart surgery program in August 2000.

According to state law, requests for such services must be approved by SHPDA’s Certificate of Need Review Board.

Shelby Baptist’s request was opposed by the owners of Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham.

Brookwood Hospital is owned by the California-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

Brookwood objected to Shelby Baptist’s request on the grounds that another open heart facility would further dilute the area’s resources and that their own program would be negatively impacted.

Brookwood argued that Shelby Baptist would not have enough volume to provide a high quality program.

However, representatives from Shelby Baptist contest their’s is the closest hospital for some 220,000 people.

In April 2002, the CON review board denied Shelby Baptist’s request for the services, despite the fact an administrative law judge recommended approval of the request after an initial six-day hearing.

&uot;We’re asking the Shelby County Court of Appeals to overturn the decision made by the CON review board based on the fact that it was arbitrary and capricious,&uot; said Marty Murphy, spokesman for Shelby Baptist.

Four months after the CON review board denied Shelby Baptist, it approved a similar request for open heart services for an Anniston hospital.

The Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center was granted a certificate of need for new open heart surgery.

The Calhoun County hospital was approved despite existing programs 30 miles away in Gadsden and one hour away in Birmingham.

Murphy said the Northeast case serves as further proof that the CON board’s decision was &uot;arbitrary and unreasonable.&uot;

The hearing was originally scheduled for the end of last year but was postponed at the request of Shelby Baptist when attorneys asked for more time to file a reply to counterbriefs.

&uot;Whether the hospital obtains this open heart CON will have a grave impact on its continued mission to become the major provider for healthcare for Shelby County, rather than a mere band-aid station, with serious medical treatment requiring transport to Birmingham,&uot; according to the Shelby Baptist brief.

Regardless of where Herrington’s decision falls on Wednesday, the opposing side will likely appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, Murphy said