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Jefferson County approves UAB-led Healthcare Authority to Run Cooper Green

Jefferson County Commission voted to create a UAB-led Health Care Authority to manage Cooper Green Mercy Health Services. (Provided Photo)
The Birmingham Times

Calling it a “defining moment” for indigent patients, a majority of Jefferson County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to create a UAB-led Health Care Authority to manage Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.

The transition to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Care Authority will take place on April 1, 2020.

The 3-2 vote saw Commission President Jimmie Stephens and Commissioners Joe Knight and Steve Ammons in favor of the Authority while Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson voted against.

Jefferson County Manager and CEO Tony Petelos said the agreement is a win for both the indigent patients currently coming to Cooper Green and for its employees.

“We will work with UAB to maximize the impact of the indigent care fund while collecting data to study and establish a long-term, sustainable financial arrangement that is best for Cooper Green patients, employees and the community,” Petelos said.

Stephens said the agreement is “a defining moment” for patients at Cooper Green. “We believe patients will see a difference in the care they receive for the better. I appreciate the due diligence by the county staff on this matter and look forward, to moving forward, together.”

Knight, chairman of the commission’s finance committee, said, “One-hundred and thirty-one years ago the Hospital of United Charities was formed to give quality care for the indigent population in our community, today the mission remains the same at Cooper Green and I believe this agreement gives us the best opportunity to do that.”

Tyson, chair of the commission’s Health Services Committee, said she was still disappointed that she was not selected to be on the initial board of the Health Care Authority. “I have worked very hard to get the best deal for the patients and the employees of Cooper Green,” she said.

Scales said the vote culminated “several months of non-communication, during what was promised by county management to be an extensive due diligence period, followed by a rush to make a rash decision that will have a longstanding impact on thousands of the county’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Scales added that “critical questions about this contract were raised but were never answered. The contract in question was never about the quality of the health care service to be provided to indigent residents, but rather was about the county’s long-term financial obligation for decades to come.”

County officials said questions were answered during a due diligence period that lasted months and as a result the master agreement with UAB was amended. Also, additional questions were answered for commissioners during an hour and a half meeting with lawyers behind closed doors ahead of the vote, they said.

Changes made to the master agreement during the due diligence period include:

  • Jefferson County will remain the “paying agent” for Cooper Green employees, which allows the employees to remain in the current pension program.
  • Employees’ accrued sick and vacation time will transfer in full to the Authority.

Ammons said the Authority administered by UAB will set a model for the future. “This is not something we have entered into lightly, both sides have sat down with each other, we know how we can move forward and improve care – that’s the most important part, improving the health and quality of life for the patients that rely on Cooper Green.”

UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany said a UAB-led Authority to manage Cooper Green will “create a state-of-the-art patient care system that would enhance care and benefit Cooper Green patients and employees, as well as the county.”

The Directors of the University Authority are:

  • Reagan Durant, MD, MPH, Chief of Cooper Green Medical Staff and UAB Division of Preventive Medicine Physician
  • Raheel Farough, UAB Health System Vice President of Managed Care and Venture Support
  • John Henry, Jefferson County Commission Chief Financial Officer
  • Joe Knight, Jefferson County Commissioner, Chairman of Finance Committee
  • Kimberly Payne, RN, MSHA, UA Health Services Foundation, Associate Vice President of Ambulatory Services
  • Tony Petelos, Jefferson County Manager and CEO

• David Randall, UAB Health System Chief Strategy Officer