Judge recommends denial of surgery center certification


FAIRHOPE – A state judge has recommended that the certification needed to open a USA Health surgery center in Fairhope be denied.

USA Health had applied for the state Certificate of Need necessary to build a 25,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery center at the intersection of Alabama 181 and Alabama 104.

In an earlier discussion with the Fairhope City Council, Owen Bailey said the facility would improve healthcare on the Eastern Shore. “We also believe this is very much needed in the region,” Bailey said on April 12.

Alabama Administrative Law Judge James F. Hampton ruled on May 7 that the center would be a benefit to the area’s economy and healthcare, but that USA Health had not met the criteria needed to grant the certificate of need.

“There is no determination of a substantially unmet public need for the proposed ASC,” he said in the ruling.

Mark Nix, president and CEO of Infirmary Health, praised the ruling.

“Thomas Hospital appreciates the administrative law judge’s recognition that there are already more than sufficient outpatient surgery centers available within a short distance of the proposed new facility,” Nix said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Thomas Hospital, a leading hospital in southwest Alabama and an integral part of Infirmary Health, will continue to meet the healthcare needs of Baldwin County as it has done for the past 60 years. Baldwin County, although growing, is adequately served by three existing surgery centers in addition to the outpatient surgery department at Thomas Hospital.”

USA Health Associate Vice President Gary Mans said Hampton’s recommendation will be presented to the Certificate of Need review board later this summer.

“We are hopeful the board will reconsider some of the opinions placed within this ruling and examine the facts that justify the need for additional healthcare facilities in Baldwin County. As South Alabama’s only academic medical institution, we will continue to serve the best interests of our community as we are not motivated by profits but rather meeting the healthcare needs of the people,” Mann said. “We believe that ultimately the CON Review Board will do the right thing and recognize the importance of this project and the overall Mapp Family USA Health campus to our community and will overturn the judge’s fundamentally flawed recommendation.”

USA Health also plans to build a 50,000-square foot professional office building on the site. That three-story structure will not be affected by the ruling on the surgery center, Bailey said April 12.

The office building will provide space for doctors and other medical-care providers. The facility will include primary care, family medicine and a full range of diagnostic and imaging services on the ground floor, Bailey said

USA Health plans to break ground on the office building later in 2021, he said.

The facility is being built on land donated to USA Health by Louis and Melinda Mapp of Fairhope.