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Hearing starts on new Madison hospital

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — While a hearing kicked off in Madison on a proposed new hospital, officials in Limestone voted against one entity's plan to build it.

Administrative Law Judge Randy Reeves began a hearing Tuesday at Asbury United Methodist Church to hear proposals from Crestwood Medical Center and Huntsville Hospital, which both want to build a 60-bed hospital in Madison.

The Limestone County Commission unanimously approved a resolution opposing Crestwood's application to build the hospital because it is a for-profit hospital.

The resolution states that a for-profit hospital would have a "detrimental financial impact" on Athens-Limestone Hospital, a community hospital.

A hospital in Madison could attract paying patients from eastern Limestone County and lure doctors from Athens-Limestone, local officials have said. Athens-Limestone's acting Chief Executive Officer Cary Payne said it would lure eastern Limestone County patients with insurance, leaving the burden of providing charity care on Athens-Limestone.

Payne said Madison officials testified during the hearing under cross-examination that a new Crestwood hospital would serve eastern Limestone County.

"They admitted it would impact our hospital and take staff positions from our hospital," Payne said.

Crestwood officials will spend this week presenting their case to the judge, Payne said.

Huntsville expects to present its case next week. Then Athens-Limestone can plead its case, Payne said.

Athens-Limestone initially opposed Huntsville's proposal to build a new Madison hospital but withdrew that opposition this month when Athens-Limestone and Huntsville decided to form a partnership.

The County Commission's resolution states that if the Certificate of Need Review Board approves a new hospital, it should be a community-based hospital like Huntsville.

"We'd rather there not be one, but we would rather it be one that would do the least damage to us," Commission Chairman David Seibert said.

The hearing could take three weeks or longer. The judge's ruling will go to the Certificate of Need Review Board, which can rule for or against the judge's decision.

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