Against opposition, state approves USA surgery center in Fairhope - Lagniappe

In a reversal of fortune, the University of South Alabama Health System (USA Health) received state approval to build a free-standing ambulatory surgery center on the Mapp Family Campus in Fairhope today, in a decision dismissing the recommendation of an administrative law judge and rejecting the opinions of dozens of prominent local opponents.

Last year, Baldwin County philanthropists Louis and Melinda Mapp donated the land for the proposed campus at the southeast corner of State Routes 181 and 104. There, USA Health announced plans for the ambulatory surgery center, a medical office building and an educational component. But the proposal drew opposition from rival Infirmary Health Systems, who complained about the detrimental financial affects it would have on its existing healthcare network in Baldwin County, including Thomas Hospital in Fairhope.

Among those who submitted letters on behalf of the Infirmary included the outgoing mayors of Fairhope and Daphne, Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack, Regions Bank President and CEO John Turner Jr., automotive dealer Ty Thompson and T. Bestor Ward, chairman of the board for the Alabama State Port Authority.

In May, administrative law Judge James Hampton agreed with Infirmary Health, but also noted USA Health did not provide evidence of a substantial unmet public need required of its application. But the state’s Certificate of Need Review Board voted 5-0 in favor of the project today, awarding the application.

“This is an exciting day for all of us,” said Owen Bailey, MHA, FACHE, chief executive officer of USA Health. “We will be able to bring to the people of Baldwin County the specialized healthcare services they need in a much more convenient location for them.”

Services planned for the campus include primary care, pediatric specialties, pulmonary medicine, gastroenterology, orthopedic surgery, urology, imaging services and more.

“The entire project also allows us to train more members of the next generation of healthcare providers on not only some of the most sophisticated technology available in healthcare, but also in the interpersonal skills that are so important in providing high-quality care to our patients,” Bailey said. “We are very grateful to have the support of the CON Review Board on this project that will help transform medicine in our area.”

Pediatric Emergency Center also expanding
Separately, the CON Board also approved USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital’s plans to expand and renovate its Pediatric Emergency Center. According to a news release, the project calls for more than doubling the current emergency department from 9,000 square feet to nearly 19,000 square feet and expanding from 14 treatment areas to more than 30 areas, including 25 private treatment rooms. The project also will create two behavioral health rooms and a sensory room to enhance the care for patients with specialized needs.

Further, the space will provide enough room for parents and caregivers to be with their children to enhance the experience for young patients and their loved ones.

“This will be the first major renovation of our pediatric emergency center since its initial construction in 1997,” said Chris Jett, administrator for Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “Not only has the demand for our services grown with the population of the region, but the space requirements associated with the delivery of the high quality of care we are known for makes this expansion even more important.”

USA Health claims the expansion will strengthen the educational and training opportunities of future healthcare providers including emergency medicine residents, medical students, nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other allied health professionals.

USA Health anticipates construction beginning in early 2022 and finishing in mid-2023. The initial estimated cost of the renovation, construction and equipment for the project is $15 million, with USA Health already having raised nearly $10 million through donations. The project will take approximately two years to complete after receiving state approval.

Against opposition, state approves USA surgery center in Fairhope - Lagniappe