By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Effective April, a University of Alabama at Birmingham-led Authority will assume responsible for the day-to-day operations at Cooper Green Mercy Health services ushering in a new era of care for the indigent population in Jefferson County, say UAB officials.
“The goal for us is to expand care whether it’s the points of service, or individuals that can actually receive service through better management . . . but also bring to bear UAB’s expertise around larger purchasing,” said David Randall, UAB Health System Senior Vice President for Strategy and Business Development.
Another aspect of the transition is a “population health component which is engaging patients outside of the clinic,” said Randall. “How do we help them with prevention? How do we help them with education? We have great programs around nutrition, around behavioral health. Telemedicine is another one. How do we create those access points to serve as many people as possible?”
In November, the Jefferson County Commission adopted an agreement in partnership with the UAB Health System to create the Authority which will be known as the Cooper Green Mercy Health Services Authority, an affiliate of UAB Health System.
Will Ferniany, UAB Health System CEO, said the Authority is looking at ways to make best use of money that goes toward care for the county’s indigent population which is paid through the Indigent Care Fund and amounts to just under $60 million annually. The money comes from a percentage of sales tax revenue.
“Our goal at UAB is how do we maximize the care that’s given with those [indigent care] dollars which sounds like a lot but in healthcare it disappears in a hurry,” Ferniany said. “The authority’s goal is to try to stay within that $60 million … and make sure we get as much care for those people in need as we can. Doing things like population health techniques, opening up satellite clinics, doing more things that keep people well.”
Tony Petelos, Jefferson County Manager, said the county is not getting out of the health care business. “We are partnering with the largest medical provider in the state of Alabama to help us do the day to day operations at Cooper Green,” he said.
Randall said there will be no interruption in care and no increase in costs.
As for employees, “we will provide offers of employment in early February as well as a review of the benefits package and we anticipate meeting with each of the employees one on one,” Randall said. “It’s a not a re-application process . . . it’s up to them to decide whether they would like to continue their activity within the authority. We’re trying to make that as seamless as possible.”
All current Cooper Green employees will have an opportunity to come under the health care authority at same salary along with their accrued leave and remain in the county’s pension system. Cooper Green currently has between 155-160 employees and will look to fill 20-25 positions, said Raheel Farough, UAB Health System Vice President for Managed Care and Venture Support.