ECM Hospital’s future resolved through partnership

FLORENCE, Ala. – After years of speculation, a plan has been agreed upon for the future of a soon to be vacated ECM Hospital in Florence. For 75-years Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital has served the Shoals community, but in December patients will be moved to a new medical center.

When the new North Alabama Medical Center was first announced seven years ago the clock started ticking for ECM. Hospital owners RegionalCare Health Partners gave Florence and Lauderdale County first option on what to do with it once it’s empty.

“A redeployment team was established, and they worked for at least two or three years looking at alternatives and maybe talking to people,” explained Florence Mayor Steve Holt. “At this point though, we’ve had no interest whatsoever.”

With no one stepping up the city of Florence, Lauderdale County, and RegionalCare decided demolition is the best option. RegionalCare will pay for the almost $5-million project. If approved Tuesday evening by the city council, the city and county will pay back RegionalCare through tax abatements on the new hospital.

ECM Hospital CEO Russell Pigg says they owe it to the community to bring down the aging facility.

“As soon as we have all of the patients and equipment out of here, we’ll start the demolition process here to make sure that the neighborhood doesn’t have to look at an eyesore of a decaying hospital,” said Pigg.

Florence and Lauderdale County tax abatements equal to about $3.8 million over a 12-year period. RegionalCare will pay for the additional $1-million out-of-pocket.

Hospital officials say in about a month, a temporary fence will start going up around the property at ECM in preparation for their closure and the demolition.

The demolition project of ECM Hospital could possibly be completed by the end of summer next year. The land will then be transferred back to the city and county for redevelopment.

The Lauderdale County Commission has already given their blessing to the agreement.