Last week, UAB Health System announced it had struck a partnership with a south Alabama hospital, John Paul Jones Hospital in Camden, which had recently announced it would close its door because of financial hardships.
“Small hospitals, in particular those in Alabama’s underserved, rural counties, are under tremendous financial pressure,” UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany said via press release. “We believe it is part of the UAB Medicine mission to help provide assistance to hospitals throughout the state and to do what we can to ensure the survival of these rural hospitals.”
Indeed, two other rural hospitals — Demopolis’ Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital and Greenville’s LV Stabler Memorial Hospital — have already entered into a similar management agreement with UAB Health System.
Other facilities affiliated with UAB Health System include Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Russell Medical Center in Alexander City and Regional Medical Center in Anniston.
We can think of no better illustration of the changes in health care Alabama is undergoing. Rising costs mixed with the state’s reluctance to expand Medicaid mixed with poor health of so many Alabamians is applying pressure to local health-care providers, particularly those in rural parts of the state. Somebody has to pay for treatment and often that burden lands on local hospitals.
In an online Your State, Your Say survey commissioned by The Star and created by Veracio, respondents were asked to list the top issues facing Alabama. Health care was cited by 70 percent of those who took the poll. A similar survey of Alabama residents by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama also found a high number of respondents who placed a high priority on health care. More than half those who identified health care as a priority, focused specifically on the cost of health insurance.
The Star survey asked respondents if they were confident candidates for governor in the 2018 race would address their concerns. The good news is that those surveyed had a high degree of confidence that candidates would indeed place a priority on health care on the campaign trail.
We encourage Alabama’s gubernatorial candidates to take advantage of that optimism. They should boldly lay out their plans for addressing the challenges facing health care in the state. They should tell us their big ideas for lowering costs and improving the health of Alabamians. More importantly, they should tell us how they plan to pay for those big ideas. Too often, the state has lurched from crisis to crisis when it comes to health care. Our challenge is to develop a long-range plan, fund it, implement it and make adjustments along the way.