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Hartselle Enquirer

Hartselle Medical Center to close Jan. 31

Hartselle Medical Center will close at the end of January, according to a press release sent minutes ago.

The following is the text of the press release:

Hartselle Medical Center will cease operations Jan. 31, officials announced today.

“Despite the excellent care and outstanding customer service delivered by our employees and physicians – and having invested significantly in technology, physician recruitment and service line development over the past five years – Hartselle Medical Center has struggled for several years, and it has now reached a critical state,” said Mark Medley, President of the Hospital Division of Capella Healthcare, owner of the hospital since 2007.

Hartselle Medical Center, licensed for 150 beds, currently averages less than eight medical-surgical patients and 13-15 psychiatric patients per day, as a majority of patients continue to leave the community to use hospitals in Decatur, Huntsville and Cullman. Contributing to this issue is that, according to the Alabama state health plan, Morgan County is severely over-bedded, with 300 too many hospital beds.

At the same time, Alabama is the most difficult reimbursement environment in the nation. In fact, hospitals in Morgan County – along with other rural hospitals in Alabama – are paid the lowest in the nation to treat Medicare patients. Payment from commercial insurance providers is also the lowest in the nation.

“This was an extremely tough decision that came after exploring a number of options for the future of the hospital,” added Medley. “But the extreme challenges of healthcare reform, a weak economy and the toughest reimbursement climate in the nation here in Alabama have become insurmountable dynamics.”

Hartselle Medical Center is just one of many community hospitals everywhere and especially in Alabama that are struggling. According to the latest available data by the American Hospital Association, one in three of the nation’s hospitals are losing money. In a recent Alabama Hospital Association survey, nearly half of hospital CEOs said that their hospital was operating at a loss.

“This decision has nothing to do with the phenomenal work of HMC’s dedicated and talented employees and physicians, who have served patients extraordinarily well for many years,” added Medley. “These are dynamics out of their control and ours. And, it is our number one priority at this time to assist each and every one of Hartselle’s employees to find a new position as quickly as possible.”

Capella has been in contact with neighboring hospitals and will be conducting job fairs beginning as early as this week in an effort to help secure employment for HMC’s 136 employees.

Before reaching this decision, Capella tried a number of things to preserve the hospital, including sharing certain services and combining administration with Parkway Medical Center, as well as exploring partnership opportunities with a number of other health systems and providers.

“Despite our best efforts, we’ve not been able to identify a partner willing to buy and continue to operate the hospital,” said Medley. “We continue to be hopeful that a new owner might come forth and would be very open to talking with anyone who is interested.”

Hartselle Medical Center will remain open and provide services through January 31st. After that time, patients have a number of other options for hospital care in the region – including Decatur General Hospital (11 miles away), Parkway Medical Center (12 miles away), Cullman Regional Medical Center (20 miles away) and Huntsville Hospital (30 miles away).

For patients who have questions about existing appointments with HMC, please consult your doctor or call the hospital’s main line: 256-751-3000.

Located at 201 Pine Street, NW, Hartselle Medical Center has served Morgan County residents since 1948. For the latest news, visit the hospital’s website at www.HartselleMedicalCenter.com.