Board develops plan to re-open, purchase Chilton Medical Center

Published 6:58 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Chilton County Hospital Board has developed a plan to re-open Chilton Medical Center and purchase the facility but needs almost $1 million from the Chilton County Commission to do so.

Commissioners were asked for the money at a board meeting Wednesday but declined to immediately commit the funds. They wanted to review the county’s finances and consider how indigent care would be paid for.

The funds the board seeks are proceeds of a trust established after the hospital board’s sale of the facility in 1983, and have been used to pay for indigent care.

Board secretary and spokesman Sibley Reynolds said the board has reached an agreement in principle with Sunlink Health Systems Inc. to purchase the property if the hospital proves to be financially viable. Sunlink’s subsidiary, Central Alabama Medical Associates LLC, owns the hospital facility and equipment.

But first, the hospital board needs money to open Chilton Medical Center for 30-90 days to allow a court-appointed receiver to operate the business while a separate group analyzes the business’ finances and determines whether it is sustainable.

“If they say, we don’t think it’s feasible to have a hospital here, we’re going to shut it down,” board member Allen Payton said. “We’re going to quit spending money, and we’re not going to purchase it. But if they say it is feasible, we’ve got a road paved all the way to the end to purchase it.”

Reynolds said if the hospital proves to be financially viable, the evaluator for the trial run could be a long-term solution to operate the hospital.

“We have a third-party group, a large hospital entity, that has offered to come down and do an evaluation for us, and then if this thing is feasible for us, to start operating the hospital,” Reynolds said. “If we have a different name, a different color sign on it, it might give people some hope (that service has improved).”

It is unclear how many former CMC employees would go back to work at the hospital because the receiver would be in charge of all the hospital’s operations, including staffing. Board members said at the meeting Wednesday that while some employees have found other jobs, a “core group” of administrators would likely return.

The board stressed to the commission the need to have enough money at the start of the trial to see the project through to its completion, meaning the purchase of the property at the end of the trial if the business is deemed viable.

Board members seemed hopeful the hospital could prove sustainable. They held a meeting with local doctors earlier this week and said the doctors voiced a commitment to referring patients to Chilton Medical when possible.

“We’ve got the support of the local doctors,” Reynolds said. “Historically, the hospital has not had the support of the local doctors.”

The commission could vote on transferring the funds at a special meeting Monday. The commission met Wednesday morning at the Chilton County Courthouse, recessed and convened again that evening at the Hospital Board meeting held at Peoples Southern Bank.

Though the commissioners questioned board members about the plan, a majority seemed to be in favor of contributing the money to help the hospital. Commissioner Shannon Welch voiced his support.