Hospital OB decision prompts concerns

Published 3:01 pm Friday, June 28, 2013

Two members of the Crenshaw County Healthcare authority and the county commission this week expressed their concerns over Crenshaw Community Hospital discontinuing its OB services, effective July 4.

Last week, Brad Eisemann, CEO of CCH, cited financial cuts from sequestration and other issues with the Affordable Care Act as reasons for discontinuing the services.

The issue was brought up at Monday night’s commission meeting, and Attorney Levi Nichols, who represents the commission as well as the health care authority, told the commission he had advised the health care authority not to get involved in managing the hospital because of liability.

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Currently, the health care authority owns CCH, manages how taxpayer money is spent to purchase equipment and make renovations that are needed for the hospital, and the company Professional Resource Management of the Inmed Group leases the hospital from the healthcare authority.

Nichols described it to the commission as a fully furnished apartment.

As part of the lease, PRM must give 30 days notice before deleting a service, and are only required to be a “primary acute hospital.”

PRM leased the hospital in 2002 on a 20-year lease.

Board Vice Chairman Alan Sexton, who attended the commission meeting, said he did not find out until the decision was already made to close the OB services.

“We were told the decision was financial,” he said in a statement to The Journal. “However, we have not been provided with any documentation of any kind by PRM to substantiate the basis for the financial decision. They said they are losing money from offering the services, but so far they have given us nothing to confirm that,” he said. “Dr. Charles Tompkins has been delivering babies at the hospital for quite sometime. This has been a much-needed service for our county. There are a number of people who cannot, for various reasons, obtain prenatal and obstetric services in Montgomery, Enterprise or Dothan.”

Sexton said his current objection is based on the fact that he has not been provided what he calls “proper information to make an informed decision.”

“The board is the custodian of a substantial amount of taxpayer monies that is used to operate the hospital,” he said. “If were are provided that information, then I might very well be for the decision. I do not believe it is in the best interest of Crenshaw County for that decision to be made without full disclosure by PRM.”

Board member Braxton Laird, who did not attend the commission meeting, but spoke to the Journal, said the services were to be discontinued shortly after the time he received a letter notifying him of the closure of OB services.

“That’s not much notice,” he said. “The way I see it, we needed a little more time. I expressed my views to the board, but we didn’t make the decision. The citizens of Crenshaw County deserve the best.”

Commissioner Merrill Sport said he was concerned because the county has two young doctors in the making, who have plans to come here and practice obstetrics.

“To me, it is what it is,” he said. “To blow an opportunity within two years to have two young doctors coming here and to lose them to the big cities because we aren’t delivering, I can’t understand that.”

Commissioner Charlie Sankey asked Nichols how this would affect a mother passing through, who suddenly goes into labor or has an emergency situation.

“By law, they must be treated,” Nichols said. “Emergencies do happen.”

The commission agreed to invite Eisemann to the next commission meeting to tell his side of the story.

The Crenshaw County Commission meets on July 8 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse.