Chilton Medical Center must meet state mandate or risk closure

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chilton Medical Center’s board opened up a meeting Tuesday to clear the air about the struggling hospital’s situation.

But employees left the meeting at Peoples Southern Bank with their most significant question still unanswered: whether they should look for new jobs in anticipation of the hospital’s closing.

CMC Executive Director Ted Chapin told the board that he has received notice from the Alabama Department of Public Health that he must present a plan for the hospital’s future on Nov. 8 at the state capital.

If the health department doesn’t deem the plan acceptable, the hospital could be shut down.

One part of the health department’s concern is that CMC provide “safe patient care,” Chapin said Tuesday at an emotional meeting attended by more than 30 hospital employees and about 50 people total.

The other part of the hospital’s plan must be to prove it can be “financially viable,” a plateau officials are struggling to attain because of a $4 million debt and an impasse on selling the hospital to a new owner.

Chilton Medical Center is operated by Clanton Hospital, LLC, a subsidiary of Carraway Medical Systems, Inc. Clanton Hospital leases the hospital facility from Central Alabama Medical Associates, LLC, a subsidiary of Sunlink Health Systems, Inc.

CAMA held an ownership interest in Clanton Hospital at one time but divested itself of its interest in March 2011.

Hospital officials have said they have been contacted by potential buyers but that Sunlink has shown no interest in selling, perhaps because of the debt.

“There are a lot of pieces legally to this pie that are going to require people to lay down their egos, lay down their checkbooks and in some cases just have a heart,” said attorney Roger Bates, who is helping the hospital board with the situation. “If [a change in ownership] doesn’t happen, it will be because folks far away didn’t want it to happen.”

Board member Sibley Reynolds said Sunlink has not worked with local officials.

“If the hospital closes, they stand to lose the most,” Reynolds said. “At this point in time, they’re willing to do that. We’ve run into a stone wall here because they own the property.”