The Jefferson County Commission voted Tuesday to create a University Healthcare Authority with UAB Health System to manage daily operations at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.
Indigent healthcare across the county has been a concern for years, and in an April 3-2 vote, the Jefferson County Commission approved a measure to explore allowing a UAB University Healthcare Authority to manage operations at Cooper Green. County officials said the county would still own the center and be involved, but the authority would assume control of management and other daily operations.
Tuesday’s final 3-2 vote follows months of due diligence by both parties to work through details of the now-approved master agreement approved.
The transition to the University Healthcare Authority will happen April 1.
County Manager and CEO Tony Petelos said the transition is a “win for both the indigent patients currently coming to Cooper Green and for the employees.” He said, “During the first two years we will work with UAB to maximize the impact of the indigent care fund while collecting data to study and establish a long-term, sustainable financial arrangement that is best for Cooper Green patients, employees and the community.”
Following the months of research, several changes were included in the master agreement. Those changes are that Jefferson County will remain the paying agent for Cooper Green employees, which means employees will remain in the county’s current pension program. The second change is that employees’ accrued sick and vacation time will transfer in full to the Healthcare Authority.
Commissioner Sheila Tyson and Commission President Pro-Tem Lashunda Scales voted against the resolution. Tyson said in a press release from the county that she is “disappointed” she was not selected to be on the initial board of the Healthcare Authority. “I have worked very hard to get the best deal for the patients and the employees of Cooper Green,” she said.
Scales said the vote represented months of “non-communication, during what was promised by county management to be an extensive due diligence period, followed by a rush to make a rash decision that will have a longstanding impact on thousands of the county’s most vulnerable citizens.”
She continued, “Critical questions about this contract were raised but were never answered. The contract in question was never about the quality of the health care service to be provided to indigent residents, but rather was about the county’s long-term financial obligation for decades to come.”
Commission President Jimmie Stephens, Commissioner Joe Knight, and Commissioner Steve Ammons voted in favor of the authority.
“One-hundred and thirty-one years ago the Hospital of United Charities was formed to give quality care for the indigent population in our community, today the mission remains the same at Cooper Green and I believe this agreement gives us the best opportunity to do that,” Knight said in a press release.
Employee town hall meetings will be held during November, according to the county.
The Directors of the University Authority will be as follows:
-Reagan Durant, MD, MPH, Chief of Cooper Green Medical Staff and UAB Division of Preventive Medicine Physician
-Raheel Farough, UAB Health System Vice President of Managed Care and Venture Support
-John Henry, Jefferson County Commission Chief Financial Officer
-Joe Knight, Jefferson County Commissioner, Chairman of Finance Committee
-Kimberly Payne, RN, MSHA, UA Health Services Foundation, Associate Vice President of Ambulatory Services
-Tony Petelos, Jefferson County Manager and CEO
-David Randall, UAB Health System Chief Strategy Officer
Cooper Green Mercy Hospital was built in 1972 as a 300-bed hospital for indigents across the county. In 2012, the hospital shut its doors on in-patient care and became an outpatient clinic that also operated an after-hours urgent care facility. In the years since that closure, Cooper Green has leased space to third-party clinics like Alabama Regional Medical Services and Cahaba Healthcare Foundation in addition to operating its own clinics. Right now, the facility operates clinics for behavioral health, cardiology, chemotherapy, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, pulmonary and more. These Cooper Green clinics will be the ones affected by the University Healthcare Agreement.