In 1965, the Alabama legislature earmarked funds from sales taxes in Jefferson County to be used specifically for the healthcare needs of the County’s poorest citizens. In 1972, Mercy Hospital, later named Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, opened its doors with the mission of providing healthcare to Jefferson County’s low-income residents, regardless of their ability to pay. Since its’ beginning, Cooper Green Mercy Hospital and the Jefferson County Department of Health, have provided a safety net for the County’s indigent and homeless populations.
The Hospital is funded by a combination of local taxes, private third-party payers, and federal medicare and medicaid reimbursements under the auspices of the Jefferson County Commission. Allegations by the Commission stated that the Hospital was a substantial drain on the County’s general fund. The pending bankruptcy of Jefferson County led the Commission to close the Hospital’s inpatient operations in 2012 and changed the Hospital from a primary care to an urgent care facility, a move that was poorly planned and executed and that has had a devastating impact on the quality of care. In an open letter to the Commission in May 2013, the Jefferson County Medical Society wrote, “Indigent patients are now suffering from a breakdown in the continuity of care and the lack of critical physician-patient relationship” and further stated, “The ‘plan’ set forth by the County Commission is an abject failure.” In the 2013 legislative session, Republican Representative Jack Williams submitted a bill to divert much of the indigent care fund to the County’s general fund. The bill never made it to the floor, but may re-emerge. GBM has been and will continue to be a leading voice in opposing assaults on healthcare for the poor and is actively engaged with community leaders seeking sustainable ways of making the healthcare system more effective, responsive, and cost efficient.