Officials with RegionalCare Hospital Partners and Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital will have to wait even longer to state their case for building a 300-bed hospital and comprehensive cancer center in Florence.
A contested case hearing for both projects has been moved to Feb. 3-22 at the Marriott Shoals.
A hearing for just the hospital project initially was scheduled for November, but all parties involved agreed hearing the cases together would be more efficient.
Jeff Atwood, vice president of communication for RegionalCare, said February was the first time all parties involved had three weeks to devote to the hearings.
The scheduling includes a provision for additional time if the hearings cannot be completed.
The hearing for the two much-discussed projects comes after other health care providers challenged the need for the facilities.
RegionalCare, which owns ECM and Shoals Hospital in Muscle Shoals, applied for a certificate of need in December 2011 to build a $250 million, 300-bed regional medical center to replace an aging ECM Hospital. That proposal is being challenged by Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield and three other Huntsville Hospital affiliates: Athens Limestone Hospital, Parkway Medical Center in Decatur and Decatur General, and also by Alliance Oncology, which operates Bethesda Regional Cancer Treatment Center in Florence and Valley Regional Cancer Treatment Center in Sheffield.
Doug Arnold, CEO of Helen Keller Hospital, said he supports a new hospital in Lauderdale County but said the hearing is a venue to get answers about the potential impact on Helen Keller and other area hospitals.
“We have said all along that we support a replacement facility for Lauderdale County,” Arnold said. “We want to see that it is the size it needs to be.”
RegionalCare submitted an application for a $19.4 million, 20,750-square-foot cancer center April 10. That application is being challenged by Helen Keller and Alliance Oncology.
“We are committed to building a 300-bed regional medical center and having a campus that is comprehensive,” Atwood said. “It is one big investment in health care for the Shoals, and we felt it was important to hear (both applications) at the same time.”
Atwood said while the vision is for a health care campus, the certificates of need will be judged separately so the approval of one is not dependent on approval of the other.
ECM and RegionalCare have begun the property acquisition process for approximately 25 acres, or six blocks, in east Florence for the replacement hospital and cancer center. The hospital has set a deadline of Oct. 1 to have deals in place with the property owners. The hospital is offering property owners 200 percent of the appraised value.
ECM spokesman Tom Whetstone said they have signed deals on about 30 parcels.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.