HealthSouth, Shelby Ridge each jockeying for rehab hospital

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The state Certificate of Need board could decide in early 2012 whether it will allow HealthSouth or Shelby Ridge and Rehab Select to construct an inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Shelby County, officials with the two organizations said Dec. 20.

HealthSouth and Shelby Ridge both submitted requests to the state to construct inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in Shelby County after the Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council approved the transfer of 17 rehab beds from Jefferson to Shelby County.

The bed transfer came at the request of HealthSouth, which is looking to build a 34-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital likely in a vacant plot of land across Interstate 65 from the Colonial Pipeline tank farm in Pelham, said HealthSouth Regional Vice President Terry Brown.

Shelby Ridge is looking to build a 17-bed inpatient rehab hospital next to its current building behind Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster.

Shelby Ridge Owner Chris Schmidt said he “opposed and continues to oppose” the transfer of the 17 beds into Shelby County, but said his company submitted the application to build a rehab hospital using the 17 beds after the project was “open to everyone.”

In October, several local nursing homes, including Shelby Ridge, Columbiana Health and Rehab and Golden Living Riverchase filed a suit claiming the state violated the Alabama Health Plan when transferring the 17 beds to Shelby County.

“We have the most cost-effective plan that is one-fourth the cost of HealthSouth’s. We feel that a 17-bed rehabilitation hospital is the right number,” Schmidt said. “We are opposed to HealthSouth coming to Shelby County. We feel that we already provide that service in Shelby County.

“To build it on the campus of our already-existing rehabilitation facility, we feel it will further complement and enhance what we are already doing,” Schmidt added.

Brown said he was “surprised” Shelby Ridge officials filed the suit shortly before submitting plans to build its own rehab hospital.

HealthSouth Southeast Region President Linda Wilder said her company’s rehabilitation hospital would offer care much different from Shelby Ridge.

“They provide a maximum of one hour of therapy a day. We have to provide at least three hours a day in multiple disciplines,” Wilder said. “Both are needed, because some people aren’t ready for the intensity of our level of rehabilitation.

“We think we provide two different levels of care,” Wilder added, saying the HealthSouth project would bring a “significant economic boost” to Shelby County. “What the nursing homes here do, they do well. But it is a different specialty. This (HealthSouth hospital) will not replace them.”

Schmidt said his inpatient rehab hospital would offer “essentially the same” services as HealthSouth’s, and said it would come at “one-third of the cost” to its patients.

“(HealthSouth) likes to say there is a big difference between our projects, but there’s not,” Schmidt said. “We are already doing rehab in Shelby County. We think someone who is already doing it should be given some consideration.”

Brown said the matter likely will be heard by an administrative law judge early next year before the judge makes his recommendation to the state Certificate of Need board. The CON board will then decide which project to approve.