The Jefferson County Commission voted Thursday to enter into an agreement with UAB to manage operations at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services. Jefferson County has owned and operated the local indigent care clinic for more than 40 years.
The new agreement would create a healthcare authority led by UAB to manage Cooper Green. The authority would oversee spending of the Indigent Care Fund, which is generated from tax revenue to provide health care for the county’s poorest residents. The county would still collect that tax revenue and pay for operational expenses at Cooper Green.
The contract was approved Thursday with a vote of three to two. Commissioners Jimmie Stephens, Joe Knight and Steve Ammons voted in favor of the resolution. Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson opposed it.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the agreement would improve care for patients at Cooper Green.
“This is going to be a great day for our indigent in Jefferson County,” Stephens said. “They will be able to receive state-of-the-art care from the University of Alabama in Birmingham.”
The commission approved the idea to create a healthcare authority last year. Stephens says since January, commissioners have discussed the contract that was approved Thursday in numerous executive sessions.
Commissioners Scales and Tyson asked to delay the vote to amend the agreement. They want to add a resolution to keep Cooper Green employees on the county’s payroll and guarantee no changes to employee pension plans. The current contract states that employees must reapply for their positions under the new UAB-led authority. Scales has also expressed concern about financial agreements included in the contract. The agreement outlines a plan for the county to finance a new Cooper Green clinic in the future and allows UAB to purchase the current clinic, should it go on the market.
“I just think that we didn’t explore all of the options properly before we took this kind of vote.” Scales said.
The county will now enter into a due diligence phase to approve a final contract with UAB. County attorney Theo Lawson said changes can still be made to the agreement.
“There are a series of things that will come before this commission before this is finally closed on,” Lawson said.
Officials say negotiations could last several months and proposed changes to management at Cooper Green will not interrupt any services at the clinic.