Judge tapped in dispute over surgery center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

A judge has been selected to preside over a heated debate between Selma’s lone hospital and a company with connections to a York hospital administrator and Dallas County Commissioner.

Vaughan Regional Medical Center and Ameris Health both want to build an outpatient surgical center in Dallas County. In order to do so, both must receive a &uot;Certificate of Need.&uot; Administrative Law Judge Branch Kloess will be the one to make that determination.

According to the State Health Planning and Development Agency, Kloess will set a hearing date once attorneys for both Vaughan and Ameris can come to an agreement on a suitable time. From then, it will take the judge between 30-60 days to make a decision.

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In order to operate in Alabama, healthcare agencies must receive a CON. That certificate must be granted by SHPDA and companies receive the CON only when it is deemed there is a need for a service in a particular area.

Kim Ballard, administrator at York’s Hill Hospital (owned by Ameris), said nothing new has transpired in his company’s request to build a free-standing outpatient surgical center in Selma.

Ballard, a former employee at Selma Baptist Hospital before it was purchased by Province Healthcare, said he expects the battle for the CON to last a while.

Ballard said he has been involved with some CON hearings that lasted years.

Meanwhile, Vaughan’s CEO said he wants to see the process completed as soon as possible.

Vaughan has indicated it wants to spend more than $15 million in expansions. While the hospital also wants to build an outpatient surgical center, they would use the investment to expand the intensive care unit and the emergency room. None of that work can be done until the hospital receives a CON.

A spokesperson at the SHPDA office said it is unlikely for a judge to grant two competing agencies a CON for the same purpose. Once the judge makes his decision, he will present his finding to the SHPDA board. Nine out of 10 times, the spokesperson said, the board concurs with the judge’s opinion.