Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Alabama Hospital Wars: Huntsville Hospital & Keller Hospital v ECM Hospital

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, July 9, 2012

On it’s face, this makes utterly no sense – healers wasting healing resources on court battles.

Why is this happening?

In the end, they get the goldmine, and you, dear reader, get the shaft. But the greater problem is, that you’re already getting the shaft, and you just don’t know it.

Oh please!


Could this man be Public Enemy #1 in the Shoals area? David Spillers, Chief Executive Officer, Huntsville Hospital (256) 265-2835

David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital should apologize for WASTING precious patient resources by hiring denizen hordes of corporate attorneys to wage Hospital Wars against the public health of Shoals area citizens! And he’s doing this during hard times? C’mon… David? You don’t have any better use to which you can put that money?

It’s NOT rhetoric, folks.
This is your state government at work! And Spillers is playing the system.

It’s called the Certificate of Need Board, and their purpose is to decide whether or not communities need hospitals, and whether or not those who want to build them are allowed to build them.

Imagine this scenario: You’re sick as a dog, and are wanting to go see the doctor, but somebody tells you that you’re not sick enough to go see the doctor, and prevents you from going. You wouldn’t like that, would you? But it’s the same way with building hospitals in Alabama. A Certificate of Need Board must approve any, every and all applications to build a hospital even before the first shovelful of dirt is dug.

It may be difficult to understand the whys, wherefores and all the history associated with it, so here’s everything in a nutshell: Years ago, in an effort to keep healthcare costs down, Congress passed a national CON law, and held out federal funds like a carrot on a stick. The only state that didn’t pass some type of CON law was Louisiana. Soon afterward, the Congressional Budget Office demonstrated that the law was ineffective against rising costs, so Congress abandoned, rescinded and dismantled the law. Subsequently most states significantly modified their CON laws, though some states did not. Alabama was one that did not.

Pendleton called the TimesDaily to do a mea culpa… instead, he should have ratcheted it up about four or five notches. He also said, “I believe both sides should provide the public with as much information that can and should be public.” 

Here’s where the biggest problem is: IT’S VIRTUALLY ALL SECRET!

Sure, the Board and their proceedings are “supposed to be public” but the news media thinks you’re too stupid or ignorant to care, so the story gets buried on page 16C in a one column, two inch story next to the GIANT DISPLAY ADVERTISEMENT. Not only that, but the hospitals themselves are not voluntarily forthcoming with information. It’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.

MILLION$ upon MILLION$ are WA$TED – THROWN OUT THE *@$^(!)# WINDOW (or, more accurately, into the $wiss bank account$ of corporate lawyers) – who have NOTHING MORE TO DO than follow the orders of folks like David Spillers and wage Hospital Wars. You have nothing better to do with that money? You don’t want to waste it on patients? You don’t want to waste it on employee wages or benefits? You instead want to waste it on lawyers?

DAMN! (Yes DAMN! You want the Almighty to bless that bad behavior?)

Can you imagine EVER looking into the eyes of someone one step from Death’s Door, and telling them that “Instead of spending money on your care, I’m going to spend money on a court fight to prevent a hospital from being built here”?

And yet, that’s exactly what Generalissimo Francisco Franco… er, David Spillers and Huntsville Hospital are doing.



Councilman apologizes for pimp remark

By Robert Palmer, Staff Writer

Florence city councilman Sam Pendleton

Florence City Councilman Sam Pendleton, Jr. apologized for calling two hospitals a “pimp” and a “prostitute.” (TimesDaily file)

FLORENCE – City Councilman Sam Pendleton is well known for his outspokenness and pointed comments, but even he admits he went too far earlier this week at a council meeting.

He described the partnership between Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield and Huntsville Hospital as a pimp and prostitute relationship that would ultimately diminish Keller. He has been adamant in his support for RegionalCare Hospital Partners, which bought Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence more than a year ago. Officials there want to build a new hospital in Florence. Keller and three Huntsville Hospital-affiliated hospitals have filed challenges with the state opposing its construction.

Pendleton called the TimesDaily on Thursday morning to say he will remain an advocate for RegionalCare’s plan to build, but added he will be more judicious with his words.

“I don’t usually do this unless I can’t live with it,” he said. “I want to tone down my statement and apologize for the words I used at the recent council meeting. I could have used better words, but I didn’t.

“I know I have caused great concern to a number of hard-working professionals as well as citizens of the Shoals,” he said. “I make this statement after reading my own words and comments in the paper, and it has caused me great concern. I do apologize.”

Pendleton spearheaded a resolution in June to rebid the city’s ambulance service, which is owned by Keller. The Lauderdale County Commission was forced to follow suit because Lauderdale EMS serves most of the county, and the contracts are intertwined.

David Spillers, chief executive officer of Huntsville Hospital, said Pendleton’s comments stung.

“That was mean,” he said. “I’ve never met or talked to him.”

Doug Arnold, chief executive officer of Helen Keller Hospital, said in a prepared statement that the relationship between Keller and Huntsville is one of management, not ownership.

“Our relationship with Huntsville Hospital is a result of our sharing the same beliefs in a not-for-profit health care philosophy,” he said. “Helen Keller Hospital is still very much owned by the Colbert County-Northwest Alabama Health Care Authority and the people of our community.”

Arnold said the issue before the Florence City Council is ambulance service, not hospital construction.

“I feel as though (Pendleton’s) comments were not very well thought out,” he said. “We all say things we regret.”

Spillers described the hospital business regionally as akin to the Auburn and Alabama football rivalry.

“We’re going to compete, but we don’t need to make it personal,” he said.

Spillers said there are broader problems all hospitals, including privately-owned ones, face that are of more importance to providing quality health care.

“We’re in Alabama, and we don’t get paid very well for what we do — from Medicare, Medicaid and the commercial payers like Blue Cross,” he said, referring to low reimbursement rates. “It’s the worst system in the country, as far as I’m concerned. It’s bad for Keller, ECM and Huntsville.”

Pendleton said he believes the competition between the hospitals would be better understood if all parties would provide more information about what they are doing.

“I believe both sides should provide the public with as much information that can and should be public,” he said. “A well-informed public is a supporting public. As a supporter of RegionalCare, and as an elected official of Florence, I encourage this side to do that.”

Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.


Keller target of city official

Councilman calls hospital ‘prostitute’
By Robert Palmer
Staff Writer

Councilman Sam Pendleton on Tuesday restated his intention to get Helen Keller Hospital, via its Lauderdale EMS ambulance service, out of Florence.

Pendleton also predicted that Huntsville Hospital, which is in partnership with Keller hospital, will eventually reduce Keller to “a clinic.”

In June, the council and the Lauderdale County Commission voted to rebid the ambulance service based in part on rumors that Lauderdale EMS was taking patients to Keller, in neighboring Sheffield, and to Huntsville Hospital instead of Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence.

ECM is now owned by RegionalCare Hospital Partners, which wants to build a replacement hospital in Florence. The move is being contested at the state level by Keller and Huntsville, two publicly-owned entities that have formed a partnership.

Pendleton was reacting to a comment made during the council meeting by a member of the public. Audrey Parrish said she had to use the ambulance service for a medical problem several months ago.

Parrish said the ambulance crew asked her which hospital she preferred. She said her doctor practices at Keller and does not have practice rights at ECM. She said the crew told her they could not tell her where to go, but added that ECM would be the closest hospital.

“I don’t want Helen Keller on our streets,” Pendleton said later. “I want to see the replacement hospital built in Florence. Until we get that, I’m not interested in unity (between the two Shoals counties).”

Pendleton then criticized Keller’s partnership with Huntsville, and predicted that Huntsville will take advantage of Keller.

“Helen Keller will soon be bled to death,” he said. “Huntsville Hospital is like a pimp and Keller is a prostitute. One day, Helen Keller will be nothing more than a clinic.”

In an otherwise uneventful meeting, the council amended its General Fund budget to reflect more than $600,000 in additional tax revenue collected so far in the fiscal year, and approved the refinancing of two bond issues totaling more than $22 million, with an anticipated savings of almost $2 million in interest payments.

Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or Robert.Palmer@TimesDaily.com.


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