SE Health joins powerful group as senator issues stern warning in dispute


Around the time Alabama lawmakers began working on a bill that could strip power from the board that oversees Southeast Health in Dothan, the hospital joined an influential organization which retains legislative lobbyists who present its views to those legislators.

While the timing may seem odd, Southeast Health says its decision to resume membership with the Alabama Hospital Association is in response to that group’s handling of the pandemic.

“(The) association has been instrumental in assisting its member hospitals and working closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Southeast Health has directly benefited from their work throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said a statement provided to News 4 on Monday.

Although it dropped out in 2017 to cut costs, according to the statement, Southeast Health continued its relationship with a related advisory board before joining the Hospital Association on Dec. 5, less than a month after it joined. became apparent that legislation violently opposed by the leadership of the hospital board would be considered.

The AHA will not disclose whether it takes a position on the bill that could change how the Houston County Healthcare Authority is chosen.

“We don’t have a statement at this time,” said Jeannie Gaines, the association’s communications director.

Houston County Commissioners appoint 12 of the 13 members of the hospital’s board of directors, but current law limits their selections to those recommended by the Authority, essentially allowing the Authority to make its own appointments.

HB-196 would remove that power from the Authority, giving commissioners sole discretion in their choices, revising a state law that has been in place for decades.

The measure, introduced last week, made its way through the House before heading to the Senate with a stern warning from a lawmaker.

“I have said (to the commissioners and the Authority members) that if they don’t resolve this issue among themselves, we will pass this bill,” said State Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) at News 4.

While Chesteen supports the legislation, Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), who also represents Houston County, said Monday he hasn’t made up his mind.

Often, local legislation without the unanimous support of the local legislative delegation is difficult to pass.

Chesteen said there was no timeline for the Senate to consider the measure.

If the bill passes the upper house, it will authorize a constitutional amendment that voters will have to decide in a referendum in November.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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