Hospital situation may have reached turning point

Published 8:14 am Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good news about Chilton Medical Center has been hard to come by, but if and when Chilton County’s only hospital re-opens Nov. 7 will be remembered as a day that allowed it to happen.

On that day the Alabama Department of Public Health and Clanton Hospital LLC, the entity holding the Chilton Medical’s license to operate, reached agreement to allow the hospital to retain its license while remaining closed. But this agreement terminates on Dec. 21.

The hospital’s license was suspended Oct. 29 by an emergency order of Alabama’s top health officer, Dr. Don Williamson, effectively shutting down the facility. Williamson said it was clear the business would not be able to make its payroll. That raised the question of whether the hospital could continue to provide adequate care for patients.

A hearing before the Department of Public Health was set for Nov. 8 in Montgomery. That hearing could have led to the hospital’s license being revoked and Chilton County being left without a hospital for at least the near future.

Those close to the situation said then the only way the hospital could pass the state’s test — and thus retain its license — was if there was a change in ownership.

The hearing scheduled for Nov. 8 was cancelled the day before it was to take place, and the license was extended to Dec. 21, should a new owner come forward and qualify under the license.

No new owner is yet evident. Ted Chapin, Chilton Medical Center executive director, said the hearing was cancelled because of developments related to control of the hospital, and the state’s press release said the license extension was “to allow another person or entity to submit an application for licensure to operate the hospital.”

Chapin and others, including the Chilton County Hospital Board, have worked hard on this, and we expect they have much more to do. They should be commended for their efforts in behalf of health care for Chilton County residents. They seem to have us on a path to a sound solution.

We hope a solution is in reach, appreciate the hospital leaders for their effort and offer encouragement to continue working toward a resolution. Chilton County and Clanton need a hospital that is medically and financially viable for the people of Chilton County.