Fight for Healthcare Science School still ongoing

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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Whitfield Regional Hospital CEO/Administrator Doug Brewer says the fight to keep the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences in Demopolis is still ongoing.

On May 5, the Senate Finance Committee voted down the $2.8 billion budget that would have funded several projects in southern Alabama, including the healthcare science school in Demopolis. Around 82 percent of the original funding was taken away to be spent from Shelby County north, meaning the Birmingham and Huntsville areas of the state.

Projects were also taken from Montgomery such as the White Water Rafting project that was a $21 million project, and the port and airport projects were taken out of Mobile.

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In an effort to keep the school in Marengo County, a feasibility study is currently underway to determine the merits and viability of having the school in the area.

Brewer said that the legislature appropriated $750,000 for the feasibility study, and that the hospital is working on getting the environmentals done on the site to be certain that the property is ready should the school be approved for construction.

“We will be working with the company that has chosen to do the feasibility study to help them conduct that. At the same time, we’re working with legislators and others trying to educate them on how important it is to be located right here,” said Brewer. “We’d love to have it here, especially since this is the Black Belt, and because it’s the only way we’re ever going to begin to change what I call the cycle of chronic care issues that exist here. We have to educate local people and create an economic growth engine for this community.”

Brewer said that the project “may have needed a longer educational period” to discuss the importance of building the school in a rural area.

“I think it’s important that we come together as a community and educate others as to why this is the place for it. We can take this chance to communicate with legislators as to why it is important that the school be located be here,” said Brewer.

Brewer said that a lot of work has already gone into the fight with County Commissioners, Mayor Woody Collins, and Whitfield staff having traveled to Montgomery to meet with legislatures. Brewer said he believes there will be more trips made to Montgomery before everything is said and done.

“I think we’ve made great strides in helping them understand the situation. That’s why the feasibility study dollars were put in to conduct it here,” said Brewer. We’ve got commitments from many of those legislators to come here and visit Demopolis to understand why having this school means so much to this community.”

Brewer said the community can be a big help in the fight for the school by calling legislators and leaders of the House and Senate. He said that Representative AJ McCampbell and Senator Bobby Singleton have thrown in their full support for the school and are doing everything they can to keep it in Marengo County.

“Reach out to the Gov. Ivey’s office and tell her we appreciate it because she supports it. Let her know that we appreciate that she supports it. Let her know that we need it down here both economically and clinically,” said Brewer. “We have a very unique opportunity because UAB is here. We have access to the expertise to make this school a success. The time is right for it to happen.”