License, Funding Issues Threaten Decatur General West

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – There is the real possibility that Decatur could soon lose one of its hospitals. Decatur Morgan West is a psychiatric facility with over a hundred employees and as many as 50 patients at any given time. The Alabama Department of Public Health says the hospital will have to make millions of dollars in upgrades in order to renew its license.

There’s no word on when the facility might close but hospital officials say they’ll probably know whats going to happen within the next two weeks. Decatur General West, as it’s known, has been licensed as an acute care hospital for the last 20 years, even though they treat psychiatric patients exclusively. But in order to keep that license, state officials say they’ll have to add services and facilities like an emergency room, x-ray lab and other facilities that will cost the hospital millions of dollars.

William Giguere is with the Foundation for Mental Health in Morgan County. They provide mental health care services to approximately 5 thousand patients. We told him it was our observation there seemed to be fewer options for those needing mental health care services.

“That’s more than an observation, that’s a fact,” Giguere says. “There are fewer resources available for community mental health centers and other providers to provide services to the community.”

If Decatur General West is forced to close, Giguere says it will have a tremendous impact not only on those who need mental health care services, but on the entire community.

“You’re going to see increased numbers in hospital emergency rooms, you’re going to see increased numbers in jails, in prisons, it puts more of a tax on emergency medical services, the fire department, on the police department,”He says.

Decatur General West will finish the fiscal year with a deficit of almost two million dollars. But it’s the upgrades being ordered by the state to renew their license that could mean the end of the facility. A hospital spokesperson says the upgrades are simply not feasible.

“As a matter of fact, they were cost prohibitive. So now we’re working with them (the state) to see if we can come up with a plan for us to continue to operate this facility and this much needed program under the 20-year old guidelines that we’ve been operating under that they gave us,” says Leigh Hays, Decatur Morgan Hospital spokesperson.

Hays says it will be another couple of weeks before they know exactly what they’ll have to do. She says while a number of options are being explored, she stresses there have been no formal discussions about closing the facility. That, Hays said, would represent a worst case scenario and would only happen if all other options were exhausted.

10 comments

  • concerned doctor

    Huntsville Hospital at work again! They were in on the closure of Hartselle Hospital, have gutted patient care at Parkway Hospital, and are merely maintaining the downward spiral of Decatur General. Their goal is to force patients to use their facilities in Huntsville and Madison. How many jobs must be lost and how many patients forced to go out of Morgan County before the local officials figure out what’s going on! We are witnessing the death of healthcare here in Morgan county and the “herding” of patients to other areas.

  • Wake Up

    Less psychiatric care + free access to guns = many more stories in the news about shootings! Real smart!!

  • Ginger

    Concerned doctor,
    The report says it is state which is ordering the upgrades. It says nothing about Huntsville Hospital. Huntsville hospital may be big but I doubt they have set up the state to come up with new requirements just so they can close down this facility.

    Wake Up,
    Seriously? I take it you are anti-gun. These people will have free access to knives, cars, and even pots of boiling water. I guess we should ban those too! Not everyone who seeks help wants to go “postal” you know. I think you need to learn a little more about psychiatric care before you start throwing around accusations.

    I would love to see the rest of the requirements the state is making and would love to know what has led to the seemingly sudden implementation. I am not sure of this facility is owned now by Huntsville Hospital or if it is a separate entity. If they need access to an ER, labs, Xrays, etc – how about working with Parkway which is just down the road? Contract out those types of services?

    Yes, this will definitely cause a harmful effect if this facility if forced to close its doors.

  • Bubba

    Wakeup is a liberal “Drone” doing the bidding of his “Master”, Obumma! Why don’t you move to NY or DC. Why?? Cause stone cold Bubba said so! Don’t make me come over there, Lib.

  • Concerned doctor

    Just look at the facts Ginger, Huntsville Hospital has gutted Parkway and is actively engaged in “shipping” patients to its oth nearby facilities. Total admissions are down, surgery volume is down, and the old decatur General is still losing money every month. Huntsville Hospital is not at all unhappy with this since they still “capture” the patients at their other surrounding facilities and also relieves them of their obligation to ” put money back” into Decatur General. As long as the hospital shows a loss there is no money! Stand by and watch as the healthcare system in Morgan County is destroyed but please remember… It’s one thing to drive to Huntsville because of convenience but it is quite another to drive there because your life depends on it! The Huntsville Hospital administrators don’t even live in Morgan County so why do you think they actually care what happens here?

  • Robert Palmer

    Why don’t they just change the name of Decatur General West to a name that reflect what they are actually doing? They don’t need xc-ray machines and an ememgency room to serve their function. There is a new x-ray and diagnostic facility just down the street in front of Decatur Mall, and an emergency room is very close at Beltline Hospital. Everything doesn’t have to be “on site.”

  • David

    @Robert Palmer, I think the state is mandating onsite facilities. Decatur General West is trying to get a variance so they can do what you suggest: use nearby equipment instead of spending a fortune for upgrades. The Huntsville Hospital ownership is unlikely to spend money for the additional equipment, and the state is seldom flexible with businesses, so Decatur General West will probably close.

  • Shannon

    I don’t see why the couldn’t just move Decatur General West into the vacant rooms at Parkway Hospital. There they will have an x-ray room, and an ER. And money will then still be going towards the Morgan County Medical Centers. Would that not work?

  • llllllllllll

    Huntsville own Parkway, so it would still be putting money back into Hsv…. Not necessarily Morgan Cty.

  • Lucy

    They were told three years ago prior to HH leasing that they had to have an onsite ER or move to Parkway, its a medicaid and medicare requirement in order to bill those two insurances. They simply ignored what they were told. HELL no should they be grandfathered in, they need to pay for their consequences. Maybe a third party can come in and open a new psych hospital. The problem is they are filling their pockets rather than putting money back into the establishment.

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