County commits $100k to L&D

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The labor and delivery unit at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital has been saved – for now.

The Marengo County commission yesterday committed $100,000 to the financially strapped unit and became the final player in a process that will keep the unit open for at least the next 12 months.

“It’s an effort to help to continue to provide these services to a segment of our population who may not have been able to travel an hour or more should the services be terminated locally,” commissioner Dr. Ken Tucker said. “The concern on the healthcare side is, obviously, the negative impact on our infant mortality rate and the potential negative health outcomes of expectant mothers.”

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Tucker also noted the potential negative impact to economic development should the sole labor and delivery unit for 70-plus miles be shuttered.

“When you’re looking at economic development, potential business and industries basically have two questions they ask first: About the school system and about healthcare – the hospital,” he said.

The county was the final piece to a financial puzzle that includes $100,000 from the City of Demopolis and an approximately $40,000 pay reduction from the doctors who practice at the facility.

Last week, Demopolis committed a $100,000 lump sum to the hospital. The county’s portion will come in 12 monthly installments. The doctor’s portion will come in a $150 fee reduction per delivery.

“This is a temporary measure,” Tucker said of the county’s commitment, “to give the hospital some time to work through their expense reduction plan and some time to jump start their plan to increase new revenues.”

The hospital’s labor and delivery unit was marked for closure in March as part of a $3.2 million expense reduction plan.

The plan included a reduction in services and work force among other items.

Hospital administrator Mike Marshall said the facility is already feeling the financial impact of the plan and has seen a $1.4 million increase in operating performance compared to April 2010.