Confusion over the Cooper Green "spoke and hub plan"

The battle over Cooper Green Mercy Hospital has escalated and with it, more confusion after 100 positions were cut Thursday.

Patients and employees are seeing workers losing their jobs and hearing about service cuts. They don't understand how it fits into this plan to turn the hospital into a primary care center.

One man hopes to change that.

Dozens of Cooper Green Hospital employees have walked through the front doors for the last time and even more did Thursday.

"It's jeopardizing patients' care," said Georgia Hampton, a nurse brought on through a temp agency after others left.

Hampton says at least a dozen cancer patients call a day confused about the cuts.

"They think the clinic is closed. They think the hospital is closed," she said.

Patients aren't alone.

The model for how Cooper Green will operate as a primary care center has been dubbed the spoke and hub plan. Hospital supporters want to understand what they're fighting.

"We don't know what the hub is, what the spokes are, what the hub and spoke plan is," said Representative John Rogers, (D) Birmingham.

The spoke and hub plan is used to describe three primary care centers that will replace the current hospital once in-patient care is eliminated. Right now, the county isn't sure how large the centers will be, where they will be located or how they'll work together.

"It seems like on paper it's a relatively simple process, but everyone knows the devil is in the details," said Otis Story, a healthcare consultant.

Story was hired to develop the transition plan. He will work out those details eventually. This is just his second day on the job. But he wants to be careful and transparent.

"You cannot over communicate in this process. You manage daily relationships. As services decline and you have to make adjustments on staffing, you share that information," he said.

That's what Cooper Green staff want. They already have information to share... with patients.

"If you missed an appointment because you thought the hospital was closed, call and reschedule and come," said Hampton. "The hospital is here."

In all, 250 positions will be cut in the transition. They are both filled and unfilled jobs.

Story has worked on other hospital projects{}that have been met with opposition, like this one. But the UAB graduate says he understands the historic significance of the hospital, as well as what the jobs mean to employees. He says the quality of care delivered will not be compromised.