Caring for indigent patients in Jefferson County

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – CBS42 followed up on concerns raised at a healthcare forum in Vestavia Hills on Tuesday night about indigent care in Jefferson County.

Members of a panel said since Cooper Green Mercy Hospital changed to an urgent care facility, emergency rooms have jumped an estimated 20 percent at other area hospitals.

Jefferson County operates that urgent care facility and said last year they were trying to get agreements with other hospitals for inpatient care.

“We want to make sure we have all of our legal issues in line, and also that we have the doctors and hospitals ready to go,” Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos told CBS42 in November of 2012.

Then, only a month before the county ended inpatient care at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, Petelos had other things to say.

“Any patients that need to be hospitalized, we will make arrangements with the hospitals we have agreements with, and the dollars will follow them,” he explained.

Indigent patients said they would have nowhere to go for heathcare.

Now, in July of 2013, CBS42 looked into what is taking so long to get agreements with area hospitals, as well as what will happen when former Cooper Green Mercy Patients show up at those hospitals needing inpatient care.

UAB Hospital is reimbursed by Jefferson County when they send a bill for Cooper Green patients they treat.

St. Vincent’s Hosptial told CBS42 in a statement that they are “very close in terms of finalizing an agreement” and that their effort to be thorough has taken longer than they initially had hoped.

So far, they have not been reimbursed for any care provided to Jefferson County patients covered by Cooper Green.

Princeton Baptist said, “We are in active discussion with the County and have made progress over the past six weeks regarding a contract for care to be provided at Princeton Baptist.”

Tony Petelos agreed that the process has taken longer than they hoped.

Cooper Green Mercy Hospital remains open as an urgent care facility from 8 a.m. to midnight.

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