Shelby Baptist wins battle to provide open heart care

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A circuit court judge recently reversed the denial of Shelby Baptist Medical Center’s application to perform open heart surgery and the State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA) has issued the hospital a certificate of need (CON) to clear the way for the procedures.

But the legal battle could be far from over.

Brookwood Medical Center opposed approval of the procedure at SBMC. Following the judge’s decision last week,

legal council for that hospital, attorney John (Jack) T. Mooresmith, said it will &uot;pursue ever legal remedy.&uot;

Attorney Frank &uot;Butch&uot; Ellis for SBMC said in response to that, &uot;We will meet them head-on.&uot;

In his final order, Circuit Court Judge Benjamin A. Fuller said, &uot;Based on the court’s review of the record, pursuant to Ala. Code 41-22-20, the (SHPDA’s CON) Board’s denial of Shelby Baptist’s open heart application is due to be reversed.&uot;

He went on to write: &uot;The court finds that the board acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, abused its discretion, and issued a ruling which was clearly erroneous in view of the substantial

evidence on the whole record.&uot;

The judge wrote that the CON Board failed to &uot;articulate what, if any, standards it utilized in determining there was not a need for the proposed open heart service in Shelby County.

&uot;In addition, the board failed to apply the same standards for approval of open heart surgery as the board has utilized in other open heart surgery cases before SHPDA, including open heart CONs issued for Jefferson, Baldwin, Calhoun and Morgan counties.&uot;

According to the judge, &uot;The board failed to give sufficient justification for rejecting the findings and recommendations of the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge), who conducted a six-day hearing, listened to live testimony from 20 witnesses and made necessary credibility determinations as to the need for the project and disputed impact on other open heart facilities.&uot;

The judge indicated in his ruling that the CON Review Board’s order denying the need for open heart surgery in Shelby County was &uot;in violation of constitutional and statutory provisions; in excess of statutory authority of the agency; in violation of any pertinent agency rule; made upon unlawful procedure; affected by error of law; clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the world record; and unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and characterized by an abuse of discretion and a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.&uot;

The judge reversed the ruling of the CON Review Board on July 13.

The next day, July 14, SHPDA approved SBMC’s request for a certificate of need for open heart services.

Mooresmith said he did not understand why the certificate of need was issued so quickly following the judge’s ruling. He said under the law Brookwood is allowed 30 days to appeal.

&uot;We are researching legal remedies,&uot; he said.

&uot;This is a very serious issue.&uot;

He said seven open heart services in Jefferson County were based on figures including Shelby County’s population.

Ellis said he is hoping for finality to this ongoing battle.

&uot;This is two out of three they (Brookwood opposition to SBMC) have lost. I hope they say enough is enough and let us get on with it. It’s too important to the people of Chilton and Shelby counties,&uot; he said.

Ellis said of time it takes patients to get to Brookwood – people should not have to be &uot;dead still stuck in traffic.