The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 29, 2012

Madison Hospital could provide regional, state economic boost

By Adam Smith

— When the new Madison Hospital opens on Feb. 28, its effect on the regional and state economy could be quite noticeable.

The facility — located at U.S. 72 between Wall Triana and Balch roads — is only the second hospital to open in the state since the mid-1970s.

“Most of the time you have health care facilities relocating their facilities; you usually don’t see one just spring up,” said Burr Ingram, vice president of communications for the Huntsville Hospital Health System. “We’re getting so close, and the dream is finally being fulfilled.”

Madison Hospital will employ about 350 people initially, which will create an annual payroll of about $15 million. Most of the staff will be made up of people who live in the Madison area.

A report last year by the American Hospital Association found that Alabama’s hospitals have a $16.8 billion impact on the state’s economy and represented 9 percent of the state’s workforce. The report said hospital payrolls and benefits account for about $6.9 billion in the state’s total labor income

The $70 million, the 60-bed facility will offer a variety of services, including a 24-hour emergency room, surgery, endoscopy, medical imaging, laboratory, sleep center and non-invasive cardiology.

“We’re very pleased with what Madison Hospital will be able to provide to Athens, Madison and Huntsville, and we believe we can have a strong health care system in all of these communities,” Ingram said.

He described the new facility as a community hospital, and said services — including mother and baby capabilities — will grow over time.

What remains to be seen is the impact on Athens-Limestone Hospital. Residents who live in the eastern part of Limestone County may find Madison Hospital to be a closer commute.

Both hospitals, however, are affiliates of the Huntsville Hospital Health System. Other Huntsville Hospital affiliates include Decatur General Hospital and Parkway Medical Center in Decatur; Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield; and Red Bay Hospital in Red Bay. Huntsville Hospital also recently announced it would purchase Hartselle Medical Center in Morgan County for $1.5 million.

Ingram said officials at Athens-Limestone Hospital have successfully mitigated the impact from the new hospital on their patient base.

“They’ve done a great job in recruiting physicians to Athens and have recently improved facilities,” he said. “We think there will be some overlap of patients in that corridor, but in the long run, we think there are more than enough patients (for both hospitals).”

Athens-Limestone Hospital has worked over the past year to make significant improvements, including a $1.7 million emergency room renovation designed to expand the waiting area and improve patient flow. The hospital also spent $135,000 to renovate Waddell Center Family Medicine, which serves about 5,300 patients.

“We are very excited for the residents of Madison as they open a beautiful facility,” said Athens-Limestone Hospital CEO Kelli Powers. “We are equally as proud of our facility, Athens-Limestone Hospital, and the great and exciting things we have accomplished here — lowest infection rate in North Alabama, outstanding quality scores and excellent physicians. We can ensure great care close to home for everyone in Limestone County.”

Madison Hospital will host an invitation-only grand opening event Feb. 26, and will be officially open for business on Tuesday, Feb. 28.