HealthSouth moves closer to rehab hospital

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

HealthSouth moved one step closer to constructing a 34-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital Sept. 9, as the Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council approved the transfer of 17 rehab beds from Jefferson County to Shelby County.

In March, HealthSouth filed a certificate of need application to bring the inpatient hospital to Shelby County’s Interstate 65 corridor. Linda Wilder, president of HealthSouth’s southeast region, said the company likely would construct the new hospital in Pelham or Alabaster, and would model the facility after HealthSouth’s Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital.

The hospital would house 17 inpatient rehabilitation beds and 17 transferred from the former Carraway Medical Center in Birmingham, which shut its doors a few years ago.

During its Sept. 9 meeting, the Statewide Health Coordinating Council agreed to allow HealthSouth to transfer the former Carraway beds to Shelby County. The hospital’s final approval is pending a decision by the state Certificate of Need Board, which likely will come in several months.

“It’s a remarkable win for our community,” said state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. “This means not only more jobs, but also an increased community footprint in our area.”

Wilder previously said the $17 million Shelby County hospital would provide several inpatient rehab services, and could treat patients facing complex medical issues, such as strokes, brain injuries and hip fractures.

Wilder said the project could bring as many as 120 full- and part-time jobs to the area.

“It’s amazing how many people have come together countywide to support this (hospital),” Ward said Sept. 12. “The county Economic and Industrial Development Authority is also really excited about it. They actually took a van full of people down to the meeting on Friday.”

In a letter to the director of the Alabama Health Planning and Development agency, Shelby Baptist Medical Center President David Wilson said the HealthSouth hospital could provide services not currently available in Shelby County.

Wilson said his hospital frequently must refer patients to the Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital or other rehab facilities in Jefferson County.

“Many of the patients in our large service area are from distances of 60 miles or more south of Shelby County,” Wilson wrote. “They are often concerned about a referral to a Birmingham facility, and the additional stress that comes from traveling another 30 to 40 minutes for these services.”

However, the HealthSouth hospital has met some opposition from several local nursing homes.

“There are nursing homes that are in our association that are in opposition to this, but the Nursing Home Association itself does not have a stance on the matter,” said Alabama Nursing Home Association Executive Director Louis Cottrell Jr., noting Shelby Ridge Nursing Home and Rehab Select in Alabaster and Columbiana Health and Rehab are opposing the project.

As of Sept. 12, officials with the two nursing homes had not returned calls seeking comments.

“The nursing homes are concerned (the HealthSouth hospital) might possibly take business away from them,” Ward said. “But nothing like that will happen. This will not be that type of facility.”