Vote on Hoover hospital plans delayed

Published 1:28 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

State health officials lacked the quorum they needed Dec. 11 to vote on a plan that, if passed, would allow the construction of a hospital in Hoover.

Brookwood CEO Garry Gause said the need is proven adding that Hoover residents represent an average of 100 patients on any given day at Brookwood.

“That shows the quantity of patients that would be available if a facility were located in Hoover,” Gause said. “There is a need for a hospital in Hoover.”

The state health planning board must consider whether or not state regulations should be changed to allow the licensure of additional hospital beds in a region already considered to be over–bedded. The amendment to state rules would allow facilities to be built in cities of more than 60,000 residents or in counties of more than 180,000.

Mayor Tony Petelos pushed for quick action because of what he sees as a desperate need.

“In the city of Hoover we have 70,000 people and we lack a hospital,” Petelos said. “On a snowy day, if it were to ice down, some of the first roads to close down would be Highway 31, 280 and Interstate 65. When these roads close it cuts off total access.”

Representatives from Baptist Health and Brookwood Medical systems came together prior to the meeting to mold their individual plans together. Both systems want to establish 140-bed hospitals within the city limits. Baptist’s plans would construct a facility off Highway 150, while Brookwood would build off Highway 280 in the Greystone area. Both hospitals presented community witnesses.

Battalion Chief Frank Brocado said he sees the need in numbers and minutes. He is the EMS coordinator for Hoover’s fire department. He said about 4,000 of the 6,000 medical calls the department receives require hospital care.

“That means all 4,000 of our patients must be transported to a hospital that is sometimes 20, 30 miles away and we often have to travel through three or four cities to get there,” Brocado said. “It doesn’t mean you won’t get great medical care, but it does show there is a strain on the medical system.”

Brocado said this could become even more detrimental if the hospital the patient is traveling to goes on hospital divert. Hospitals reach this status when their emergency, critical care or surgery units hit capacity. He said that further delays care.

Not everyone came backing the proposal. Attorney David Hunt explained St. Vincent’s opposition to the plan.

“These are very, very difficult economic times … Hospitals are particularly challenged at these times,” Hunt said. “Given these challenges St. Vincent’s thinks its critical to study the implications this proposal would have on other hospitals and healthcare facilities in this area.”

Hunt said the hospital is not unsympathetic to the desire of Hoover’s residents for closer healthcare. But he said that none of the systems requesting the change have offered numbers on the detriment it would have on hospitals located in the Birmingham–area.

“We are concerned about moving forward with this. We are concerned about using a city as a health planning area,” Hunt said.

The State Health Planning and Development Agency plans to take up the proposal again in January. If passed, the state legislator and Gov. Bob Riley would have to approve the amendment to state rules.