Jefferson County, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the UAB Health System have taken another step toward creating a University Authority to operate Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.
The proposed structure is detailed in an agreement that was recently presented to the Jefferson County Commission which it approved. If the proposed agreement is also approved by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System, the county and the UAB Health System would enter a six-month due diligence period to determine whether a final agreement can be reached while avoiding any disruption to patient care.
"With its expertise and resources, the UAB Health System is far better suited to run Cooper Green than we are as a county government," said County Manager Tony Petelos. "UAB has been the primary provider of services for Cooper Green patients for years, and now UAB is answering the call to create an authority that benefits those patients. No medical facility in Alabama provides more indigent care than UAB."
The University Authority would plan to construct a modern, improved facility that would enhance access to care and reduce costs. This new building would be next to the current Cooper Green facility. Built in the early 1970s, the existing facility is costly to maintain and is not suited to the efficient delivery of modern health care.
In addition to services at Cooper Green, the University Authority will partner with other Jefferson County hospitals and clinics to meet patient care needs and expand access. Special initiatives will be evaluated, such as new programs to address areas of need.
"The contract with the county is designed to support patients' overall health by working with them in all aspects of their health, not just when they are sick," UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany, PhD said. "Jefferson County leadership and UAB are committed to improving access to the highest-quality health care for Cooper Green patients, and we believe this is the best way to accomplish that."
"Similar authorities are working successfully for other healthcare facilities, including Medical West, Callahan Eye Hospital and Baptist Health in Montgomery, and we have identified many opportunities to optimize Cooper Green for its patients," Farough said.
The agreement also addresses the future of current Cooper Green staff employed by the county, including opportunities with the University Authority. According to Ferniany, existing employees' applications will be received and considered first, and UAB and the county will make their best efforts to place the employees, subject to background check and drug screens.
"This is a continued partnership among Jefferson County, Cooper Green and UAB that will only get stronger," Petelos said. "The authority will run the day-to-day operations at Cooper Green, and the county and the UAB Health System will continue working together to oversee and guide decisions in the best interest of Cooper Green patients."