Judge recommends rehab hospital in Pelham

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

HealthSouth on June 4 moved one step closer to possibly constructing a 34-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital off Interstate 65 in Pelham after an administrative law judge issued an opinion supporting the project.

In his opinion issued to the Alabama Health Planning and Development Agency’s Certificate of Need board, administrative law judge James Ward supported the HealthSouth rehab hospital plan over a 17-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital plan submitted by Alabaster’s Shelby Ridge and Rehab Select.

In his opinion order, Ward wrote “HealthSouth’s proposed project is superior to the proposed Shelby Ridge project in all respects,” and wrote “the population of the proposed service area has a need for the services to be provided, and the HealthSouth project will help to meet that need.”

The CON board will now review Ward’s order over the next few weeks before likely deciding during its June 20 meeting if it will approve the HealthSouth plan or the Shelby Ridge plan.

If the HealthSouth plan is approved, the company likely will construct the 34-bed rehab hospital in a vacant field across Interstate 65 from the Colonial Pipeline tank farm in Pelham.

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 previously said his project would provide the same services as the HealthSouth project at “one-third of the cost.”

HealthSouth spokesperson Casey Lassiter said the company’s proposed project has received “overwhelming support from the public, community and leadership in Shelby County.”

“We look forward to presenting our case to the Certificate of Need board,” Lassiter said.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said he plans to attend the June 20 CON board meeting, and said he was encouraged by Ward’s opinion.

“We are still very hopeful. It’s not final yet, because the CON board still has to approve it,” Murphy said. “But I’m excited about the judge’s opinion. I know it’s going to be good for the city of Pelham and for Shelby County.”

As of June 6, messages left with Schmidt had not been returned.