By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
For the past 35 years, Cooper Green Mercy has been a home for Meritta Brooks, special imaging tech, at the South Ave. Sixth facility.
“This is really my life … Cooper Green has been good to me and that’s one thing I don’t lose sight of,” Brooks said. “I am here to do a job. I enjoy doing my job and I enjoy meeting people … I love my patients and that’s one thing that keeps me going.”
Brooks, who does diagnostic x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, mammograms, said her work with patients is “personal. I had never run into so many people that were so appreciative of the things you did for them … they didn’t have much, but they would bring us little gifts,” she said.
Clifford Hopson, a clinical data analyst, who has been a Cooper Green for nearly two decades, said employees have always been able to work in the community and bring health care to those in need.
“Most employees that come to Cooper Green are long term,” he said. “When I tell people I’ve been here 19 years they say that’s a long time [but] we got people here 30 years, 35 years. Most of the time when an employee comes to Cooper Green, it’s family so they never leave.”
Brooks and Hopson were part of last week’s celebration as Cooper Green observed 50 years of taking care of an underserved population
Construction on a new state-of-the-art medical clinic should begin this winter on the site of the former Cooper Green parking deck, which was demolished earlier this year. The new five-story building will be 207,000 square feet with an overall estimated cost of $120 million.
David Randall, chief strategy officer for the UAB Health System and board president and CEO of the Cooper Green Mercy Health Services Authority, said employees have been key to the hospital’s success and that will be important as Cooper Green moves forward.
“We have such a dedicated group of employees,” he said. “Obviously, health care is a difficult environment to work with. Cooper Green is focused on a key patient population that are somewhat underserved and so it really is a passion for our employees to help these patients.”
Along with the employees the new clinic will also bring “some of the history of the past, whether it’s pictures, bricks from the patio, we want to make sure that we actually honor the past and the history that is Cooper Green in the new clinic. I think that’s important because it’s been just an institutional legacy for the community and has really provided care for those who perhaps had very few or any other options. I think that’s critically important that we continue that.”
Raegan Durant, M.D., medical director for Cooper Green, said the new building, will provide an opportunity to provide care and a customized space to meet needs.
“We will be offering services to our patients in the new facility in a more patient-centered manner than we have previously been able to offer in our current building,” said Durant. “But patients will also continue to see familiar faces among our staff. We will blend the best of the past 50 years of service with the benefits the new facility will bring, as we look forward to the next 50 years of caring for our patients.”
He added, “We recognize that we are outliving the utility of our current space. So, we’re dedicated and committed and investing in their care by building a new building, which I hope that patients enjoy the practical aspects of being in that building. But I hope they also understand that it is also a sign of our commitment to ensure that there will be another 50 years and more of care provided to similar populations here and services.”
Those services have increased because of Cooper Green’s partnership with University of Alabama at Birmingham. Since becoming a Healthcare Authority in 2020, an affiliate of The University of Alabama of Birmingham Medicine, Cooper Green can leverage the resources at UAB to improve care, Durant said, “But then I think also increasingly, there are lessons to be learned at Cooper Greene that may inform the perspective on care of the underserved at UAB … And I think that there are some things that we can contribute to the broader care to serve not only at UAB, but quite frankly, in the broader community in Birmingham and beyond.
Cooper Green’s 50th anniversary is a feat in of itself, Durant said. “Think about how tenuous health care organization sometimes can be. We’ve seen health care organizations come and go. Some are subsumed by larger organizations. But Cooper Green has managed to continue to provide care and to thrive for 50 years … there’s been a dramatic evolution in that landscape of health care, not just locally, but globally. And the fact that Cooper Green has been able to adapt at each juncture, along that timeframe, I think is remarkable.”
Cooper Green will continue to operate as normal as an outpatient clinic at 1515 6th Avenue South. Urgent care is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To get connected with Cooper Green, call 205-930-3377.
Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 9/30/2022 to correct a spelling.