State approves more beds for proposed hospital

Published 6:24 pm Friday, February 7, 2014

Those pushing for the construction of a new hospital in Chilton County scored a significant victory Friday in their effort to secure a Certificate of Need.

Numerous local leaders, along with legal representation, appeared before the State Health Planning Commission in Montgomery on Friday. They were pushing for an increase in the number of hospital beds assigned to Chilton County.

The commission approved an increase of 21 beds, from nine to 30, said Sibley Reynolds with the Chilton County Healthcare Authority.

Reynolds said he and several others were prepared to address the commission but were surprised early in the hearing when one of the commission members moved to approve the request.

“Before we could get started, one of the members made a motion to approve it because there was no opposition, and we went on our way,” Reynolds said.

Next, local officials will appear before the state CON Board.

A CON is based on an area’s determined healthcare needs and is mandatory prior to opening a health care facility.

Chilton Medical Center once held a 60-bed CON, but once the facility closed, state officials assigned a nine-bed need to the county based on the number of beds used during the last three years of CMC’s operation.

“A couple of years before it completely died, [the number of people using beds at the hospital] was in the single digits, so we had a very low multiplier,” Reynolds said. “We were saying we need more because we’re about to build a new building.”

Also, a need of at least 25 beds must be established to acquire a new CON for the proposed facility.

Reynolds said most members of the Healthcare Authority were present at the hearing, along with representatives from the Chilton County Commission, Probate Judge’s office, District Attorney’s office and Industrial Development Board, and local doctors.

A bill to allow Chilton County residents to vote on whether to enact a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new hospital is being considered in the Alabama Legislature. If the bill passes, and is approved by the governor, the referendum should appear on the November General Election ballot, if not on a special election ballot before then.