The 2012 legislative session is almost reached its end, however, we must tackle several pieces of legislation before the session is over.
One of the most important local issues that must be addressed is Jefferson County’s ongoing sewer crisis and its financial woes. It is imperative that we find a way to relieve the burden of bankruptcy and the general fund shortfalls that have plagued Jefferson County far too long.
Several plausible solutions have been presented and discussed over the past few months and all have been carefully considered. As a delegation, we must work together to find a smart solution that will provide immediate support to Jefferson County.
I am introducing two bills in the Alabama State Senate this week that will improve Jefferson County services and government efficiency, while also improving the indigent care needs for our citizens. The first bill removes Jefferson County from the hospital business and turns it over to a newly created Health Care Authority comprised of health care professionals.
The second bill mandates that the Health Care Authority assess the current status of Cooper Green and whether or not changes are necessary.
The bill to create the Health Care Authority defines the appointing criteria for the board and outlines that it must be a five-member authority comprised of a diverse representation from the health care community (i.e. hospital employees and administrators, health department officials, indigent care professionals, etc.).
Experience is crucial for the authority to ensure that the members have the experience needed in order to make the decisions that will be in the best interest of Cooper Green patients now and in the future
. As I have said before, we are not looking to close Cooper Green Hospital. Instead, we are finding ways to restructure it in order to efficiently provide quality health care for indigent patients in Jefferson County.
The second bill mandates that the Health Care Authority assess the current status of Cooper Green to determine the needs of the patients and Jefferson County. The authority must select one of the following three options: 1) reconstruct Cooper Green as a state of the art outpatient clinic, 2) place Cooper Green and its operations under a management affiliation, or 3) reconstruct Cooper Green as a 50-150 bed outpatient, acute-care hospital.
All of these options are viable and come from careful consideration and input from all parties involved. Additionally, I asked the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and UAB Dean of Public Health, Dr. Max Michael, to review the plan and advise us on what can be done to improve our plan.
Jefferson County’s ongoing financial crisis is an issue that we must act on immediately but with careful consideration. While this plan might not be the “cure all,” it will certainly put us in the right direction to remove the burden of bankruptcy moving forward. I hope by the end of the 2012 session, we will have taken the necessary steps to identify and implement a solution that improves the overall quality of life throughout Jefferson County.
Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate representing Jefferson and Shelby Counties in District 15. For more information about Slade, please visit www.sladeblackwell.com or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @sladeblackwell. To reach him by phone, please call 205.396.1144.