Despite Approval, RegionalCare Still Faces Challenges With Proposed Hospital

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – City and county leaders in Lauderdale County are celebrating the decision Wednesday by the State Certificate of Need Review Board to approve a new hospital in north-west Alabama.

It’s been a two and a half year process that officials say looked bleak at times, and despite the approval, there are still some hurdles to jump.

A majority of the property has been purchased and a sign erected, declaring a new hospital is being built on Florence’s south-side, along Veterans Drive.

Despite heavy opposition by Helen Keller Hospital and others, RegionalCare was given the go ahead to build a 280-bed replacement hospital.

RegionalCare spokesperson Tom Whetstone said it’s a huge relief to have the board side with their request,“A new hospital will allow us to bring services that the community currently does not have. As well as, provide back-up physicians or additional services for what we already have.”

But local officials still have some steps to take before the hospital can proceed.

When Coffee Health Group sold ECM Hospital to RegionalCare, the original agreement stated a 300-bed facility would replace the 70-year old hospital.

The board of directors for Coffee Health Group and RegionalCare must now amend the original contract to state 280-beds.

“It is a very work-able number, we feel like we can provide the services that we need to provide in this community, and continue to draw people from the outlying areas into this community for healthcare services,” stated Whetstone.

The parties who opposed the new hospital have 45-days to appeal the Certificate of Need Review Boards decision to the State Court of Appeals.

A RegionalCare spokesman said that if they don’t have anyone appeal the decision, dirt could start being moved for the $250-million facility by the end of the year.

The Certificate of Need Board also tabled a decision on a new $20-million cancer center RegionalCare wants to build at the hospital.

Board members hope those who oppose it and RegionalCare can work out a compromise, they will re-examine that request in 45-days.




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