Huntsville Hospital Health System and the Jackson County Health Care Authority have taken the first step towards developing an integration agreement that strengthens the relationship that has existed between the facilities for over a year.
Huntsville officials said the agreement is similar to what the Huntsville Hospital system has done with other North Alabama hospitals like Athens-Limestone Hospital, Decatur Morgan Hospital, Marshall Medical Centers and others.
“The increasingly complex and uncertain health care environment makes it more and more challenging for community owned non-profit hospitals like Highlands to flourish and grow,” said Bob Matthews, Jackson County Health Care Authority Board of Directors chairman. “We are the only remaining independent hospital in North Alabama. Having a strong relationship with the Huntsville Hospital system will allow for opportunities to access capital for improvements in equipment and our facilities, realize cost savings through buying power and more.”
Matthews said the decision to enter into the agreement is the best option considering the economic challenges facing small hospitals today and will greatly benefit patients and the community.
According to the agreement, the Jackson County Health Care Authority will continue to exist as an advisory board and will gain additional members in the future.
State Sen. Steve Livingston said the merger is a welcomed step forward for rural health care in Jackson County.
“The relationship and collaboration will mean more access to varied health care opportunities for us here at home,” said Livingston. “Rural health care across the state has suffered in recent years, as we all know. I see Huntsville’s interest in Highlands Medical Center and Jackson County as a positive step forward for all of us. The alternative is the potential for our independently owned facility to shutter as others have in the not-so-distant past around our state.”
Livingston added that the merger is good for the community, for its citizens and also appeals to economic development prospects.
“I applaud our Highland’s Leadership and Board of Directors for having the foresight to pursue this merger for the betterment of Jackson County,” Livingston said.
Following a successful due diligence process, the agreement will be effective Oct. 1.