Jefferson County commissioners agree to hire firm to fix healthcare

"Happy" and "optimistic" are usually not words used in reference to Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. But Jefferson County leaders believe affordable healthcare for the poor could be in sight.

An outside consulting firm will be hired to assess care options for Cooper Green. Commissioners insist this study{}will be the final one{}because there is no more money or time to waste.

Cooper Green has been the subject of countless discussions and studies over the last year.

"We've received competing ideas," said Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington.

Those ideas include turning the hospital into an outpatient clinic, putting it under a healthcare authority{}or{}eliminating various departments.

Commissioner George Bowman says all of them and any additional ones submitted by healthcare experts will be reviewed by an outside firm.

"If they have an idea of how we can better provide healthcare for Jefferson County, then we are inviting them all. But I'm definitely optimistic," he said.

Apart from Bowman's optimism, commissioners{}say this will be the final study because {}there is no money to continue paying off Cooper Green's debt or to finance another study.

"I{}think there's more reality today then three months ago, six months ago," said Carrington.

Commissioners hope to hire a firm next week. First, they want to hear from potential companies about what is considered appropriate pay before deciding on a fee. But that payment will have to come out of reserves.