Health officials fail to uphold duty

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

The politics of healthcare hit a roadblock December 11th when too many state health officials failed to show up for a hearing that was set to decide if Brookwood Hospital would be allowed to build a new hospital in Hoover.

Why would those officials fail to show up for a vote so important to area residents?

According to Brookwood CEO Garry Gause, the additional facility is needed due to some 100 patients from Hoover heading to his hospital any given day.

The state health planning board, which must decide if state regulations should be altered to allow for Brookwood’s plans to move forward, sits as the first hurdle that must be cleared.

Hoover city officials, including Mayor Tony Petelos, have placed their support solidly behind Brookwood’s plans for the new facility.

But officials from St. Vincent’s oppose Brookwood’s plans, citing tough economic times for healthcare providers and the absence, in their view, of solid numbers supporting the need for additional medical care in the Hoover area.

Shouldn’t Gause and those to whom he answers, such as his employers and patients, be the ones deciding what Brookwood Hospital’s plan for serving patient needs should be?

The State Health Planning and Development Agency has set an additional meeting for January where they hope to have enough members show up to constitute a quorum.

If the plan is approved at the meeting, the state legislators and Gov. Bob Riley would have to then also approve the amendment to state rules allowing for Brookwood’s request to move forward. Once those approvals are granted, Brookwood would then face a final hurdle of requesting the facility’s approval by the state’s Certificate of Need Board.

No doubt this is overly simplified, but why would government regulators need to approve or disapprove plans for new medical facilities?

Do they or similar agencies stand in the way of approving the construction of a retail store or coffee house? Not hardly, but this simplistic approach to supply and demand economics does not apply when it comes to healthcare in the state of Alabama or the politics that drive it. Apparently, showing up to a meeting when you should be there doesn’t apply either.