Wadsworth working for earlier hospital closure notices

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 1/11/18

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said his top goal for the 2018 Regular Session is centered around actions concerning the closing of Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville — including a bill that would give more notice to community leaders if a hospital is closed.

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Wadsworth working for earlier hospital closure notices

Posted

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said his top goal for the 2018 Regular Session is centered around actions concerning the closing of Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville — including a bill that would give more notice to community leaders if a hospital is closed.

Formerly known as Carraway Burdick-West Hospital, the hospital was initially set to be closed by Curae Health at the end of 2017, but a 30-day extension was given through Jan. 31.

The 59-bed hospital is not in Wadsworth’s district — he thinks it is in House District 17, belonging to the retiring Rep. Mike Millican — but he said it is the only hospital servicing Winston County and that county leaders have rallied together to find ways to save the hospital.

Lakeland officials blamed declining reimbursements, leading to a $2 million loss. About 87 employees are affected.

Curae, a non-profit company in Clinton, Tenn., has been running the Haleyville hospital, as well as Russellville Hospital, Northwest Medical Center in Winfield, Gilmore Memorial Hospital in Amory, Miss., Panola Medical Center in Batesville, Miss., and Northwest Mississippi Medical Center in Clarksdale, Miss. The three Alabama hospitals were purchased in November 2014 for $5 million, Wadsworth said.

According to the Cullman Times, the Alabama Rural Health Association reports of 46 rural hospitals in the state that report income, 34 are operating at a loss. Seven state hospitals have closed in the past eight years, according to al.com.

Local officials in Haleyville have complained they were not told about the closing in advance.

“The main goals for the 14th District for me deals with rural hospitals,” Wadsworth said when asked for his goals for the new session, noting the state Department of Public Health only requires a 30-day notice to close a hospital and waivers can be given to even shorten that. He said that is not enough time for any deal that could keep a hospital open.

“I’ve got a bill that will be filed that requires a 90-day notice that has to go to the mayor of the town where the rural hospital is located. It also has to go to the congressman, the sheriff and the chairman of the county commission,” he said. Doing that would give local officials ample time to find another buyer.

“Once you shut the doors on a rural hospital, they have to be reinspected by the Alabama Department of Public Health,” he said, meaning an older hospital might have to be brought up to standards on reinspection, which can be difficult.

Wadsworth said a potential buyer is negotiating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release the facility from a $19 million loan that Curate had, essentially releasing the building so it can be purchased.

The bill would also require a 45-day notice of shutting down a service at a hospital, he said.

Wadsworth said the improved economy is bringing in more funds to balance the budget, but he said lack of federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would hurt state budgets. “I think it is going to be saved in Congress,” he said, adding the state would fund it if Congress didn’t. Medicaid will also have more funds to work with.

If President Trump comes forward with an infrastructure plan, local counties and cities will need to have match money, he said, noting roads are in bad shape. He predicted much discussion on the issue.

Wadsworth noted $41 million in technology funds continues to be held in a trust fund after education funds were rolled over on Oct. 1, 2016, although the Legislature has not appropriated the funding rolled over. The funds are supposed to be distributed to all the schools in the state, he said.

He does not feel one should pay a pistol permit as he said people have a constitutional right to have a pistol. If one was put in place anyway, he said it should be uniform among all counties and should be a lower cost, noting a bill to put uniform fees in place will be introduced during the session.

Wadsworth also noted trying to defeat bills that restrict competition is important in the Legislature. “When you have free and open competition, everybody’s costs go down,” he said.