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Timeline: Cooper Green Hospital Through the Years

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Compiled by Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, the facility that has cared for Jefferson County’s underserved population, is celebrating its 50th year this fall. Here are some milestones and other newsworthy events since its opening.

1972

Oct. 1: Mercy Hospital, a 319-bed hospital for low-income and uninsured patients, opens in Birmingham’s Five Points South.

1975

The Alabama Legislature renames Mercy Hospital to Cooper Green Hospital to honor Green who recently retired from the Jefferson County Commission but who had also served three terms in the legislature, in addition to having served as president of the Birmingham City Commission from 1940 to 1953.

1988

The Balm of Gilead, a Cooper Green Hospital program which provides care to end-of-life patients, begins.

1993

Antionette Smith Epps is named chief operations officer at Cooper Green.

2001

–Cooper Green Hospital receives more than $700,000 in federal funds to aid in facility renovations.

–Sandral Hullett, M.D., who grew up in Birmingham’s Northside community, is named interim director of Cooper Green Hospital.

2011

–Consultants tell Jefferson County Commissioners that Cooper Green needs up to $75 million over the next five years from the county’s ailing general fund to cover the then-current operating deficit and capital needs.

The County Commission votes to draw up documents to create a health care authority for Cooper Green, a move which would give control of the indigent care fund which funds the hospital to a new body.

Jefferson County, facing $4.23 billion in debt and running short of cash, files the then-largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.

2012

Jan. 27: Cooper Green Mercy Hospital has more than $1 million in unpaid invoices for medical and laboratory supplies, six months after being cut off from the county’s ailing general fund, according to media reports.

Mar. 20: Jefferson County Commissioners are told that Cooper Green needs $14 million to clear up past due invoices and a projected shortfall for fiscal year 2012.

April 24: The County Commission rejects a proposal to pay $3.6 million in past-due invoices for Cooper Green.

May 2: A delegation of Jefferson County state senators approve bills that would create a new health care authority that would buy Cooper Green from County Commission and have the authority to convert the hospital into an outpatient clinic.

Aug. 7: A Jefferson County Commission committee votes 3-2 to close inpatient care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in 30 days. The full commission is set to vote on the same item the following week.

Aug. 10: The City of Birmingham files a lawsuit against the Jefferson County Commission, in an attempt to force the county to keep Cooper Green open.

Aug. 11: About 70 Birmingham-area residents attend a rally at downtown Linn Park in support of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

Aug. 14: After a chaotic meeting of the Jefferson County Commission, which included protests both inside and outside of the County Courthouse, the commission takes no action on a proposed closure of inpatient care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

Aug. 28: The Jefferson County Commission votes 3-2 to close the inpatient care unit at Cooper Green Mercy, following weeks of debate and protests from community leaders who had begged the county to continue operating the facility for the sick poor.

Oct. 17: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett refuses to lift a stay on lawsuits against bankrupt Jefferson County.

Dec. 10: Jefferson County officials announce that Cooper Green Mercy Hospital will discontinue inpatient and emergency room service beginning Dec. 31.

Dec. 20: Jefferson County has been mailing out letters to lay off 210 employees of Cooper Green Health Services, including medical clerks, staff nurses, patient care technicians and other workers.

Dec. 31: Community activist Frank Matthews and a few other residents light 40 candles outside Cooper Green Mercy Health Services to commemorate the 40 years of “great service” just as the facility’s inpatient and emergency services ended with the start of 2013.

2013

Jan. 1: Cooper Green Mercy Health Services officially opens as an urgent care facility.

Jan. 21: To protest the closing of Cooper Green’s inpatient and emergency room services, more than 100 hundred gather outside the Birmingham Jefferson-Convention Complex as people attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast inside.

May 6: The Jefferson County Medical Society—which represents more than 2,200 physicians—issues a press release saying the Jefferson County Commission’s efforts to downsize Cooper Green Mercy Hospital had been an “abject failure” and that primary care services for many indigent patients were almost nonexistent.

2014

Feb. 13: Jefferson County Commissioners approve a $250,000 settlement with Sandral Hullett, the former CEO of Cooper Green Hospital after Hullett had been placed on administrative leave without pay by the county.

Mar. 14: In a detailed, three-hour presentation to the Jefferson County Commission, Cooper Green Mercy Health Services administrators and then-Deputy County Manager Walter Jackson outline challenges for the health provider but said progress is being made and that the facility is operating within its means for the first time in years.

May 13: The County Commission unanimously approves agreements with four Birmingham area hospitals to provide care for former Cooper Green Mercy Hospital patients.

May 6: The Birmingham News publishes an editorial from federal receiver Ronald Sims, who oversees hiring and firing in the county, which says Cooper Green is lacking leadership. He appoints personnel board veteran Roger McCullough as interim director of Cooper Green.

July 10: The County Commission approves an $80,000 contract with a Seattle, WA-based actuarial company that would help the county identify problems that need to be addressed at Cooper Green.

2016

Sept. 7: Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos presents preliminary plans for building a new Cooper Green Mercy Health Services facility to replace the old one. County Commissioners give Petelos 45 days to finalize the plans.

2018

Sept. 13: The Jefferson County Commission passes a $670 million budget for fiscal 2019 in which Cooper Green receives $56 million, up five million from the previous fiscal year’s budget.

2019

April 18: The Jefferson County Commission, in a 3-2 vote, approves an agreement allowing a University of Alabama at Birmingham-led health authority to take over services at Cooper Green Mercy Medical Services.

Nov. 12: The Jefferson County Commission votes to approve UAB’s University Healthcare Authority plan, allowing the UAB Health System to assume the daily management of the county-operated Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.

2020

April: A University of Alabama at Birmingham-led Authority assumes 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.

2021

Oct. 12: Officials from Jefferson County and the University of Alabama at Birmingham announce that the Cooper Green Mercy Health Services will be demolished, with a new building to be constructed on the site of the hospital’s former parking garage.

2022

Sept. 19: The Cooper Green Mercy Health Services Authority receives final approval from the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System to move forward with plans to replace the current building with a state-of-the-art medical clinic.