Jefferson County Commission Pursues Healthcare Authority Plan

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Tony Petelos, county manager for Jefferson County.
Tony Petelos, county manager for Jefferson County.

Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

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By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Jefferson County is moving closer to establishing a healthcare authority to manage indigent healthcare in the county.

During their committee meeting Tuesday, commissioners moved a resolution to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting that would direct county manager Tony Petelos to begin detailed discussions with UAB Health System to establish University Health Authority.

Petelos said the only difference patients should see is a more efficient operation.

“Is Cooper Green going away? No. Is UAB absorbing Cooper Green? No,” Petelos said. “This is going to be a separate healthcare authority and the Jefferson County Commission will be a part of that process. But the healthcare authority will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of Cooper Green Health Services.

“The one thing (patients) will notice is we will be more efficient operating at Cooper Green,” he said. “But the facility will still be there and the long-range plan is to build a new clinic on the site where the parking deck is. Cooper Green will continue to have a footprint on the same location where they’ve had since the early 1970s.”

The move to a healthcare authority would not cost any more money. Indigent care dollars are collected from the sales tax, Petelos said, and those dollars will be used to run the facility.

“It doesn’t involve general fund money,” he said. “It will only involve money from the Indigent Care Fund.”

Petelos said the decision to partner with UAB came after extensive conversations with officials at UAB and other health providers.

“UAB has been an incredible partner with Jefferson County since the early 1970s when Cooper Green opened as a hospital,” the county manager said. “Most of the providers there are UAB doctors and we want to continue our relationship with UAB.

“Healthcare has changed dramatically and UAB is at the forefront of these changing times in healthcare,” he continued. “Moving forward with the healthcare authority will not only provide better patient care, but it will also be more efficient and also provide more services to the indigent population in Jefferson County.”

Petelos said employees at Cooper Green would keep their jobs, but they would no longer be Jefferson County employees. Rather they would work for the authority.

“UAB has to get with their board of directors,” the county manager added. “I don’t know what the timeline is. There are a lot of moving parts. There is a lot of negotiating that’ll have to continue. But without question, this is in the best interest of the indigent patients of Jefferson County.”

Community Grants

Tuesday’s committee meeting also included a lengthy discussion of procedures commissioners would use to dole out community grants. An administrative order on that issue also will be on Thursday’s agenda.

“It allows the commission to spend dollars within each district and it sets the parameters for being able to do that,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said.

Each commissioner has a pool of $250,000 he or she can allot to municipalities and nonprofits in their districts each year. Under the proposed changes, grants to municipalities would require a resolution and a memorandum of understanding. Municipalities would be required to put up a 20 percent match to receive the money.

“It allows the county commission and those participating municipalities to work together to improve the quality for its citizens,” Stephens said.

Commissioner David Carrington had proposed that a grant to a municipality be at least $25,000. Commissioners opted to lower the minimum grant amount to $15,000.

“It was done to accommodate those smaller municipalities,” Stephens said. “Sometimes they don’t need that (much money) to improve their quality of life. It’s not restricted to an exorbitant amount of money.”

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