JeffCo Commission, UAB discuss future of Cooper Green

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Jefferson County Commission is entering a partnership with UAB to ensure quality care for patients at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, officials said Monday.

The current Cooper Green facility is hanging on by a thread, Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos said.”The infrastructure is falling apart.”

Through the partnership, Jefferson County is seeking new ways to care for their Cooper Green patients, Petelos tells CBS 42. The proposal under consideration would place health care for Cooper Green patients under the management of an institution with the expertise and resources to deliver better services.

In addition, there are plans to create a new state-of-the-art Cooper Green facility. The current building is 350,000 square feet. The new building would downsize to 150,000 square feet and take up half of the current Cooper Green parking deck. 

In an April news conference, Jefferson County President Pro-Tem Lashunda Scales and Commissioner Sheila Tyson raised the question on what would happen to the current indigent patients.

Indigent patients are people who can not afford health insurance or who are not eligible for other health care such as Medicaid, Medicare or private health insurance.

“We are at a crossroad is and what that crossroad is, is we’re talking about the indigent care fund,” Scales said.

In the news conference, she stated the partnership could raise Cooper Green’s debt and also brought up the future of indigent patient’s future at Cooper Green if Jefferson County goes through with the partnership because of the affordability.

However, the county commission says UAB is working with them to ensure that the indigent care funds are maximized to the best use of Cooper Green patients. As far as affordability goes, UAB Health Systems officials said copayment is on a sliding scale depending on the patient’s income.

Between the Jefferson County Commission and UAB Health Systems, they are creating a Health Care Authority that consists of seven members on the board — four from UAB, three from the Jefferson County Commission.

Some have criticized the agreement approved by the County Commission; Will Ferniany CEO of UAB Health Systems and Petelos of Jefferson County said, saying it’s giving UAB too much control of the board that would govern authority. But, Petelos said its reasonable for UAB to have majority control of the board because UAB is accepting medical and financial risks at the county’s request. 

If at any time the county feels the arrangement is not benefiting Cooper Green patients, it could terminate the agreement and resume full control. 

In the meantime, UAB and Jefferson County Commission are in a due diligence period to arrange staffing, services and other logistics. It’s expected to be complete by October 31. 

They are hoping to transition to the Health Care Authority by January 1. 

RELATED: Jefferson Co. Commission Passes Resolution to enter due diligence period with UAB Health System

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