Mammoths, Mastodons: ‘Titans of the Age’ now at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Mammoths and Mastodons

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A creature that dwarfs a 12-foot-tall bear and roamed Earth for nearly 700,000 years makes for impressive company.

Throw in the mammoth’s slightly shorter, stockier cousin, whose family wandered the planet for nearly 2 million years – as vegetarians – and the title of the new exhibition, “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age,” makes perfect sense.

The 10,000 square-foot exhibition was developed by Chicago’s Field Museum and features the best examples of the species the museum could put together from collections around the world, said Hillary Hansen Sanders, who oversees the museum’s traveling exhibitions.

The show includes a replica of and the compelling story of the 42,000-year-old baby mammoth discovered largely intact in Siberia by reindeer herders in 2007. Visitors learn that a mammoth could eat 500 pounds of produce a day and see more than 100 fossils of mammoths and mastodons.

It opened Saturday at the U.S. Space Rocket Center and evoked a bit of awe from the crowds that passed through. The Woolly mammoth, Columbian Mammoth and Mastodons are all featured.

“I really love it,” said Keaton Miller, 10, of Jackson, Tenn. whose family was in town for a graduation. “It’s a science museum with a lot of space stuff, it’s really fun.”

Keaton, his brother Ryan and his dad Dave, joined forces to hoist the “hay bale” set out as one of the many interactive displays. The bale the Millers lifted was just one-15th of the weight what the mammoth would consume on a typical day.

The creatures, distant relatives of the modern elephant, wandered four continents including North America, coexisted with our bipedal ancestors and survived the Ice Age.

Among the exhibition features is a cave setting, illustrating how early man made cave drawings of mammoths dating back as far 32,000 years ago. It also features spear tips that may have been used to hunt giant creatures.

There are mighty tusks, a very large cat waiting to pounce and a model of homes used by early man – homes which employed mammoth tusks for a door, bones for walls and its fur for a roof.

Interactive features, which allow children to feel the weight of tusks and pick up objects with a trunk, urge children to consider the varied terrain the creatures roamed. And there are plenty of impressive heads and trunks to pet.

“We really enjoyed this, it’s very impressive,” said Richard Hale, from Knoxville, Tenn. Hale and his family, including son Jacob, 12, didn’t know about the traveling show until they made their way through the center Saturday.

Space Rocket Center officials hope word will spread quickly. They’ve embarked on an ad campaign spanning about a 300-mile radius and hope beach travelers and day-trippers, as well as locals, will take in the show.

The exhibition began in Chicago in 2010 and will travel around the world until 2016, Hansen Sanders said.

It will be at the Space Rocket Center until Sept. 2.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/05/mammoths_mastodons_titans_of_t.html

Huntsville Hospital asks state health planners to reconsider Crestwood angioplasty vote

Crestwood Medical Center.jpgCrestwood Medical Center in Huntsville has safely performed more than 700 angioplasty procedures since 2003 as part of a nationwide research trial sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Huntsville Hospital is asking the state Certificate of Need Review Board to reconsider its vote allowing Crestwood Medical Center to establish a permanent elective angioplasty program.

In seeking a new hearing, CEO David Spillers said Huntsville Hospital is not trying to stop Crestwood from offering the procedure. Rather, it is trying to make sure Crestwood follows updated American College of Cardiology angioplasty guidelines for hospitals without open-heart surgery.

“We’re asking them to reconsider the criteria by which Crestwood would perform the procedure, which is different than, ‘Should they perform it?’” Spillers said Friday.

Crestwood CEO Dr. Pam Hudson called the motion, filed May 15, “another deliberate attempt to create delay and distraction.”

“Our community has and deserves two quality angioplasty programs,” Hudson said Friday.

Crestwood has safely performed more than 700 angioplasty procedures since 2003 as part of a nationwide research trial sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, but it needed the blessing of state medical planners to continue the program once the study ends.

The CON Review Board granted that approval at its April 18 meeting in Montgomery. It placed several conditions on Crestwood’s license, however, including informing patients that they may have to be transported to another hospital for heart surgery if the procedure goes badly.

In its motion for a rehearing, Huntsville Hospital says Crestwood’s attorney “argued against any (American College of Cardiology) Guideline criteria being included in the Crestwood CON decision.”

During a meeting of the Statewide Health Coordinating Council two days later, the same lawyer, Colin Luke, supported adoption of a section of the guidelines for hospitals without on-site cardiac surgery.

“The position presented by Counsel for Crestwood is inconsistent with the (CON Review Board) Decision in this matter and justifies reconsideration,” wrote Huntsville Hospital attorney Joe Campbell.

Luke called the motion a “ridiculous delay” and noted that Crestwood’s application won unanimous support from the board’s seven voting members.

“It’s not a substantive issue,” he said Friday. “Huntsville Hospital ought to be embarrassed by this motion and ought to be spending their resources helping promote healthcare and choice in the community.”

Luke said the motion may be discussed at the review board’s next meeting June 20. In the meantime, Crestwood will be allowed to continue performing nonemergency angioplasty.

Angioplasty, or percutaneous coronary intervention, involves inflating a small balloon catheter to open a clogged coronary artery. A stent is typically left behind to hold the artery open so blood can flow normally.

A state-appointed administrative law judge who heard three days of testimony from both hospitals in January recommended that Crestwood be allowed to establish a permanent program.

The judge, Al Agricola, said Crestwood provided “clear and convincing scientific evidence” that angioplasty can be safely performed at hospitals without open-heart surgery backup and found that it would be “problematic” for a city Huntsville’s size to have a single program.

Follow me on Twitter: @swdoyle

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/05/huntsville_hospital_asks_state.html

Service dogs still a novelty for many businesses

Canine assistant

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – When Sam Volz tried to take his new service dog into a local post office and a Huntsville restaurant, he was stopped at both doors by management.

It may be understandable that the managers were skeptical. Sam is a typical, healthy-looking teenager who enjoys playing racquetball and going fishing. But he suffers from epileptic seizures and because of his disability, he is now the owner of a service dog.

Sam is estimated to be one of more than 50,000 people in the U.S. using canines for assistance with their disabilities said Jennifer Arnold, founder and executive director of Canine Assistants which provided Sam with his golden retriever, Sippi, March 30. “This includes guide dogs, signal dogs, assistance dogs, psychiatric dogs, and medical detection dogs.”

However, while service dogs are becoming more commonplace, they are still considered a novelty in many areas. Business owners and managers are often unaware of the laws allowing access for the four-legged helpers.

Canine Assistants, based in Alpharetta, Ga., since 1992, makes sure the recipients of the dogs are fully aware of their rights. They provide instruction on how to handle businesses which attempt to deny them access.

“First, we ask that they keep their ID capes on at all times when in public so that their dog is clearly identifiable as a service dog,” said Arnold. “Then we give them a copy of both the applicable state law and the ADA (American Disabilities Act).

“Sometimes just giving people a copy of the law is enough to resolve access issues. If not, we suggest they contact the Justice Department for ADA compliance assistance. Most places are quite accommodating to those who use wheelchairs, but our recipients who have seizure response and diabetes dogs can have a difficult time because their qualifying disabilities aren’t always apparent.”

The Volz family’s lives were dramatically altered with the arrival of Sippi. She was trained to assist Sam by alerting his mother when he has a seizure, and also should be able to detect them ahead of time as the two bond over the next few months.

“It has changed our lives,” said Lisa. “I don’t worry as much as I previously did.”

“This has brought more peace to our family,” said Sam, who is accompanied by Sippi virtually everywhere he goes, including church. “I always have a friend with me.”

The fact they were stopped from at the Post Office especially concerned Lisa.

“We tried to go into the Post Office on Governors Drive and a lady didn’t want to let Sippi in, but I told her it was the law so she finally let us in,” said Lisa. “We also had trouble with the people at Zaxby’s on North Parkway allowing us in, but the Zaxby’s in Jones Valley was great.”

Lisa eventually was able to convince managers at both the Post Office and Zaxby’s that Sippi was a legitimate service dog and had a right to be there.

When contacted about the situation, the U.S. Post Office took immediate steps to address the matter.

“We apologize for the misunderstanding and are reissuing communications with ADA information on service animals to all Alabama District employees,” wrote Debra Fetterly, communications program specialist with the Alabama and South Florida districts of the U.S. Post Office.

Fetterly emailed that service dogs aren’t required to wear any specific identifying gear, including vests, although many owners choose to do so in order to make access easier and avoids many questions and confrontations.

“It is illegal to ask for any special identification from service dog partners,” wrote Fetterly. “Some carry ID cards, and may present them voluntarily, but this also is not required. You may not ask for ‘proof’ or certification of the dog’s training as a condition of entry into the Post Office.”

The Times also contacted Zaxby’s on North Parkway about the incident and a manager, Tabitha Blankenship, said she was not aware of the law, but they have taken steps to rectify the situation.

She was on duty when the Volzes attempted to enter Zaxby’s and questioned them about the dog.

“I did not know about service dogs being allowed in restaurants and I have a disability myself,” said Blankenship. “I had never encountered that situation and did not know what to do. But once it was explained to us that the dog had a right to be there, we allowed them in and didn’t have any more problems.

“We do welcome all people with disabilities and their service dogs.”

Also receiving a Canine Assistants dog on March 30 was another Huntsville teenager, Emma Foxall, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a form of muscular dystrophy, and is confined to a wheelchair.

Sam and Emma are the first Alabama recipients of a service dog from Canine Assistants. Each had been on the waiting list for more than three years.

The dogs, worth more than $20,000 each, are given to the client at no charge and even vet care is provided for the life of the dog. When a Canine Assistants dog dies or becomes unable to perform, the dog is replaced by another. Both Sam and Emma received dogs compliments of Sam’s Club and Milk Bone, which paid for the dogs and their training.

Sam had actually met Sippi several months ago when she and a Canine Assistants representative attended a presentation of a certificate to the Volz family for a dog which was held at the Sam’s Club on University Drive. The two seemed to have clicked immediately.

“It is amazing how attentive Sippi is to him,” said Lisa. “She’s like an umbilical cord and never leaves his side. My face is hurting from smiling so much.”

To get on the waiting list, visit www.canineassistants.org.

Updated at 12:10 p.m. to reflect Jennifer Arnold as spokesperson for Canine Assistants.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/05/service_dogs_still_a_novelty_f.html

BancTrust, Trustmark merger under review

banctrustlogo.gif

The $55.4 million merger agreement between Jackson, Mississippi-based Trustmark Corp. and BancTrust Financial Group Inc. is being reviewed to determine whether BancTrust shareholders are receiving adequate compensation for their shares.

Former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Willie Briscoe and the securities litigation firm of Powers Taylor LLP are investigating the sale for BancTrust shareholders.

Under the terms of the merger, BancTrust shareholders will receive .125 shares of Trustmark common stock for each share of BancTrust common stock, which is valued at about $3.08 per share.

At least one analyst with Yahoo! Finance has estimated that the true value of the stock is as high as $6.00 per share.

Briscoe said the investigation centers on whether BancTrust shareholders are getting sufficient compensation for their shares in the buyout, whether the deal undervalues BancTrust stock, and whether BancTrust’s board tried to get the highest share price for all shareholders before agreeing to the deal.

“Because of the lack of a significant premium to the shareholders, and other factors, we believe that the transaction may undervalue BancTrust stock,” Briscoe said in a statement. “Our lawsuit will seek to obtain the highest share price for all shareholders.”

Trustmark on Tuesday agreed to acquire BancTrust in a deal that gives Trustmark a presence in the Alabama market. Under the deal, expected to close in the fourth quarter, Trustmark also agreed to repay $50 million that BancTrust received under the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The investigation comes as Fitch Ratings dropped Trustmark’s investment-grade ratings from stable to negative, stating concerns about the lender’s pending acquisition of BancTrust, Reuters reported.

Fitch said Thursday it viewed the deal’s pricing as aggressive in terms of acquired book value and expensive given BancTrust’s weakened financial condition, according to Reuters.

Shares of Trustmark and BancTrust closed Thursday at $24.42 and $2.94, respectively.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/05/banctrust_trustmark_merger_und.html

Immigration law opponents plan campaign against Alabama economy

The pro-Constitutional TEA PARTY is beginning to show their muscle, as incumbents are losing their seats. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his entrenched place, to a Tea Party State Treasurer Mourdock, who is displaying his mettle, by stating that he will fight to secure our borders and ensure that taxpayer dollars are only spent on those legally allowed to live in this nation. Dick Lugar had a long record of fighting aggressively for amnesty for illegal immigrants and was a primary sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would have fast-tracked amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants nationwide. The liberal Democrats have a campaign to undermine the TEA PARTY membership, which the political group is fading away, when actual fact is the numbers are climbing into the millions. Do you want to fight to keep more of your tax money being confiscated in continually coddling either the 20 million plus illegally immigrants settled here, or the millions more that still locate a way to slip into America.

There are a number of measures regular voters can press for?

One: Join your local Tea Party and unseat all the tired incumbents and elect fresh Tea Party leadership. Remove all Senators and House Representatives, who are pro-illegal immigration corrupted by the special interest groups. We should start with a clean slate and investigate the current records of bad politicians-both federal and state at the web site of ALIPAC.

SCUTINIZE BOTH PARTIES AS THEY HAVE THEIR OWN RANCID AGENDAS? REPUBLICANS CHEAP LABOR! DEMOCRATS MORE VOTERS! FURTHER WITH THE ONCOMING ELECTIONS IN FULL SWING, WE SHOULD BE WARNED THAT NON CITIZENS ARE VOTING AND WILL VOTE IN FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. THE ONLY WAY TO STARVE THIS OFF FROM FRAUDULENT VOTING, WHICH WILL NOT COME AS NO SURPRISE IS THE EPICENTER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. ONLY THE ISSUENCE OF A FREE GOVERNMENT PICTURE ID WILL OUR DEMOCRACY BE FREE OF FRAUD.

Two: Demand that House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Dave Camp of Michigan, who is Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Americans must insist these lawmakers stop blocking the 50-state H.R.2885 – Chairman Smith’s ‘Legal Workforce Act’. The E-Verify bill, should concern every jobless American residents, as if put into practice on a national scale would reject illegal foreign workers.

Stop blocking the E-Verify ‘The legal Workforce Act’ business program, to detect unauthorized workers, so they can be identified and removed.

Three: Demand that the Congress amend the ‘Birthright Citizenship’ so that no baby born in the United States receives immediate citizenship unless one parent is a U.S. citizen or a naturalized citizen. In addition stop Chain Migration as under the present law, the child more or less cements, the rest of the immediate family as a foothold. Thereby adding even more financial pressure on state taxpayers as UNFUNDED MANDATES, to pay not only for the 400.000 babies, smuggled through borders or arrive undetected at international airline arrivals. State Government says little about the (2009) $113 Billion price tag, extorted by the IRS in catering to the families of illegal aliens. No doubt in most American’s mind that the dollar figure has raised by now and until the amendment is passed, the payout will escalate?

Four: Stop our Internal Revenue Service issuing child credit money for children who do not even reside in the United States. In fact stop this use by illegal aliens collecting $4.2 Billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, for persons who have no legal status to be in the United States.
Five: No more mass importation of poorly skilled foreign nationals and those only STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers need apply.

Six: NO more TAX SPEND government and begin the reduction of federal agencies.

Seven: Build the double layer fence, as previously designed the Bush’s administration as the 2006 Secure Fence. To run from San Diego, CA to Brownsville, Texas with every mile festooned with razor barbed wire. In a new detection innovation reporters watched as five people walked north from the Mexican border toward the underground sensor system. When they got within about four hundred feet an alarm sounded and a Google map page popped up showing where the “intrusion” was detected. This Sonic Barrier is exemplary at even detecting low-flying ultra light aircraft, the type now being used by smugglers to haul drugs into the U.S. across the border. Mike King of Border Technology, Inc., is the inventor of the Sonic Barrier (they call it IDENTISEIS™), saying that the system is continuing to undergo testing and development, but it is seemingly more near perfection, than the old sensing units.

Eight: Punish States, counties and cities, which are allowing illegally ordinances and statutes relating to Sanctuary Cities? Cut off federal funding to these locations and prosecute all those responsible for these acts. Criminal aliens are settling in these places and have killed, maimed and molested children.

Don’t be confused by the liberal diatribe from the Liberal /Democrat mainstream media, as they are firmly impressed on pushing Obama’s plans of Socialist doctrines. We cannot keep importing more and more poverty encouraged by the government welfare placards, that if you can enter illegally, the taxpayers will care for you, from birth to the grave? We are being overwhelmed by persons who cannot speak English; therefore we spend a billion annually on translators. We pay for their children’s schooling to K-12 and in many cases college. Then the medical cost for the whole family, who eventually sneak through holes in the border or buy a airline ticket. Then there are no real true dollar figures, for loss of wages or under the table illegal workers; m any real truths are hidden from the public eye.

Start by implementing mandating E-Verify business verification computer program. It is the most effective, simple immigration enforcement identifier, along with the ‘Secure Communities’ police apprehension application to fingerprint arrestees and forward them to Ice and other agencies, that will deter any illegal foreign national from stealing the millions of American jobs. The usual suspects, including high-pressure, pro illegal immigrant groups are out to eliminate these powerful programs, since enforcement of immigration laws. IN A DELIBERATE MOVE OR NOT, IT HAS BEEN CLEARLY SHOWN THAT LEGISLATORS IGNORED THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION INVADERS, BY NOT CLARIFYING THAT ILLEGAL ENTRY AS A FELONY? HOWEVER I WILL KEEP ON REMINDING VOTERS, IT’S TAXPAYERS MONEY THEY ARE SPENDING ON FOREIGN NATIONALS, ESPECIALLY IN THE SANCTUARY STATES. E-Verify has proved its merit which many treasonous lawmakers never predicted it would catch-on, with any credibility. Even now it has a success rate of 98 percent and 300.000 honest business owners are now using the program. Thus they are saving themselves from ICE audits, large fines, asset loss and even a term in prison.

Now Politicians are trapped with E-Verify because the American citizenry are fully perceptive of its use. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be on our guard, with pro-illegal immigrant legislators such as Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid, California’s Governor Jerry Brown who want to tax their legal residence even more, to subsidize the illegal alien occupation in their states.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/05/immigration_law_opponents_plan.html

Austal USA discusses future of U.S. Navy’s LCS program

austal.jpgThe first Austal-built Joint High Speed Vessel, USNS Spearhead (Submitted photo)

MOBILE, Alabama – Austal USA joined representatives of over 50 suppliers from 25 states earlier this month at a conference in Washington D.C. for the future of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program.

Austal USA’s president and CEO, Joe Rella, joined top Navy officials in educating attendees on the Navy’s plans for the program, its acquisition plan and providing an overview on program challenges .

“Besides the needs expressed by the Navy for the LCS program to continue to deliver ships in support of their vital multi-mission capabilities, we need to ensure that representatives from around the country realize that folks are employed beyond the borders of the shipbuilder’s home state,” Rella said in a statement. “Thousands of people are employed directly as first tier suppliers in over 25 states and when considering second tier suppliers the reach extends to the entire nation.”

Austal USA in Mobile builds Joint High Speed Vessels and LCS vessels. It is the Mobile area’s largest industrial employer, with about 2,800 employees.

The shipyard is under contract with the Navy to build nine 103-meter JHSVs under a 10-ship, $1.6 billion contract and five 127-meter Independence-variant LCS vessels, four of which are part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract.

The two contracts will require Austal to increase its Mobile workforce to about 4,000 employees in order to fulfill the contract requirements.

“With almost ten percent of these workers expected to reside in the neighboring states of Florida and Mississippi, we are proud that Austal is an engine of regional growth for the Gulf States and the entire Nation,” Rella said in a statement.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/05/austal_usa_discusses_future_of.html

Cahaba Heights poised for building boom, architect says

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Cahaba Heights is primed for a building boom, with some big players in commercial real estate quietly scouting potential targets, according to an architect doing lots of business in the neighborhood.

Chris Reebals, whose Christopher Architects firm is working on numerous residential and commercial developments in Cahaba Heights, said a lot of work related to recovery from last year’s tornado is still under way. On April 27, 2011, an EF-2 tornado cut an eight-mile path there, injuring 20 people and taking one life.

Today, rebuilding and renovation work related to the tornado masks a greater resurgence. There are many projects with more recent roots, with still more in the planning stages, Reebals said.

“There have been some plays on larger tracts that have current buildings on them, that some bigger developers have tried to take over,” he said. “There’s a real interest in Cahaba Heights.”

Driving the interest in commercial property is a combination of location and price. Retail space in nearby developments costs more than $40 a square foot to lease, he said, but new retail space in Cahaba Heights is going for $20 to $30.

Residential growth is rebounding because commute times are such that cheaper housing deeper in the suburbs isn’t the deal it once was, he said.

“The 280 traffic issues have pushed people back in,” he said.

As a result, Reebals says a neighborhood once known as “Slab Town” because of an abundance of 1930s- and 1940s-era ranch-style housing has a more upscale future.

Among the projects Reebals has in the works: A retail development next to the popular Murphree’s Fruits Vegetables on Dolly Ridge Road and new housing in the upscale Cove at Overton development.

This item appeared in The Insider, a weekly column in The Birmingham News.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/05/cahaba_heights_poised_for_buil.html

HealthSouth wants judge to decide Jefferson County nursing home challenge

Gavel-Stock.jpgHealthSouth wants an administrative judge to decide if a company’s plan to replace Jefferson County’s nursing home with two new ones is in keeping with the state health plan.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — HealthSouth Corp. is wanting a judge to hear arguments in its challenge to a company’s plans to replace Jefferson County’s nursing home with two new ones in Vestavia and Hoover, further delaying the county’s planned $8.3 million sale of its nursing home beds.

Less than an hour ago, HealthSouth filed its request for a contested case proceeding over Northport Holding LLC‘s certificate of need (CON) applications late this afternoon with the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency in Montgomery. The filing comes 10 days after HealthSouth filed its “notice of opposition and intervention” one hour before the deadline to block the deal out of concerns the move is not in keeping with the Alabama State Health Plan.

In the filing, HealthSouth said Jefferson County already has too many skilled nursing beds under the state plan and half of the ones in the county’s nursing home have been unstaffed in recent years.

Casey Lassiter told The Birmingham News today the inconsistencies with the health plan are significant enough to warrant a full review before an administrative judge.

“The underlying facts of Northport’s CON applications need to be examined carefully and measured against the current CON requirements,” she said. “One of the main purposes of the CON law is to prevent the unnecessary duplication of services, and the two applications duplicate existing services. That is the primary basis for our opposition, and a hearing before an administrative judge is the best forum for reviewing this issue of unnecessary duplication of services.”

Northport Holding wants to invest $24 million to build two new nursing homes to replace the 238 nursing home beds that now belong to the Jefferson Rehabilitation and Health Center, also known as the Ketona Nursing Home in Tarrant. Northport Holding has already purchased a site near Cahaba River and Caldwell Mill roads in Vestavia and a site at U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 in Hoover to construct the two new nursing homes and split the beds from Ketona.

John Burchfield, vice president of operations for Northport Holding LLC, said in an interview today HealthSouth is delaying needed development in the county.

“HealthSouth’s initial challenge to this plan to transfer those existing nursing home beds to two new facilities has really threatened the creation of hundreds of new jobs,” he said. “The new challenge they have filed has escalated this threat and started down a path that could lead to years of litigation and incredible loss to the county.”

Lassiter said a hearing would also help clear up confusion between the kind of services HealthSouth offers at its Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and those offered by nursing home facilities like Northport Holding has planned.

“There are significant and meaningful differences between inpatient rehabilitative care and the convalescent care provided by a nursing home,” she said. “HealthSouth offers a hospital level of care, Northport does not. Consequently, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of HealthSouth, to its patients and to the families that trust HealthSouth with their loved ones that patients receive the appropriate level of post-acute care.”

Officials with cash-strapped Jefferson County had hoped the deal would close in August and give the county $8.3 million to work with. County officials have been downsizing the Ketona nursing home for more than a year in anticipation of selling beds to Northport Holding. The home has 38 residents, down from 131 a year ago. The county also has a deal in the works to sell the Ketona property to another buyer.

Both deals will be on hold until the regulatory process is complete.

Northport Holding officials have said moving licensed beds around within Jefferson County is not a major departure from the state health plan. They pointed to the fact that no other nursing home company challenged the move but HealthSouth did.

“HealthSouth’s actions were unjustified, unnecessary and, I think, unwarranted,” Burchfield said. “Our company will take every action available and necessary to protect and preserve the agreement reached between Jefferson County and Northport Holding. I think it’s sad and I regret they have taken this action.”

Lassiter said HealthSouth is unlike some other health care companies that routinely challenge any move made in the CON process.

“Unlike some companies, HealthSouth very seldom challenges the applications others make for additional beds,” Lassiter said. “But everyone is responsible to follow the CON laws of the state of Alabama.”

She said it is also not about trying to stop a rival health care company.

“This is not about competition,” she said. “We compete all over the country. But we compete with health care companies that provide similar levels of rehabilitative care. We believe that any applicant that purports to provide rehabilitative services must do so on a level playing field and meet required levels of care. It is our position that Northport applications are inconsistent with the CON requirements in Alabama and fail to meet the health care standards for inpatient rehabilitative services.”

HealthSouth is the nation’s largest owner and operator of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in terms of revenues, number of hospitals, and patients treated and discharged with operations in 27 U.S. states and in Puerto Rico.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/05/healthsouth_wants_judge_to_dec.html

Jefferson County officials fear nursing home challenge will cost county millions

Commissioner Jimmie Stephens.JPGJefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens. (The Birmingham News/Mark Almond)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Jefferson County officials said a new filing by HealthSouth Corp. today threatens to cost the county more than $11 million in instant revenues and millions more in expenses, both of which the bankrupt county can ill-afford.

HealthSouth filed a request for a contested case proceeding over Northport Holding LLC‘s certificate of need (CON) applications with the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency in Montgomery.

The filing seeks an administrative law judge hearing to its challenge of Northport Holding replacing the Jefferson Rehabilitation and Health Center — also known as the Ketona Nursing Home in Tarrant — and its 238 nursing home beds with two new ones in Vestavia and Hoover by dividing the beds.

The move further delays the county’s planned $8.3 million sale of its nursing home beds and a subsequent sale of the existing nursing home property for more than $2.8 million.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said the county was counting on that cash.

“Jefferson County was needing that one-time revenue to sustain county services,” he said in an interview. “We were actually counting on utilizing that to help finish out this year and perhaps allow us to begin next year. Now, it’s going to be very difficult going forward.”

County officials have been downsizing the Ketona nursing home for more than a year in anticipation of selling beds to Northport Holding.

Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos said in an interview another nursing home wants to buy the Ketona property for more than the $2.8 million appraised value with plans to transfer beds it already has a CON license for there and continue to operate it as a nursing home.

“We would continue to have a nursing home on that site,” he said. “The patients who want to stay there could have that opportunity.”

The Ketona nursing home has 38 residents, down from 131 a year ago.

Not only could the county be out the millions from the sale of the beds and property, it will have to continue to pay to operate the Ketona nursing home until a resolution is reached, Petelos said.

“This could kill the deals for both the sell of the beds and the property,” he said. “Worst of all, we’ve been downsizing over there getting ready to close it down and it’s going to continue to cost us millions more in operation dollars to keep it open while this continues in limbo.”

It’s a setback Petelos said the county did not need.

Tony PetelosJefferson County Manager Tony Petelos (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

“We’ve been working hard liquidating assets in the county. We’ve been working hard to cut expenses. We’ve been working hard to generate revenue. This is a huge stumbling block for us,” Petelos said. “We feel like innocent victims in this.”

Stephens said the county had a near perfect deal in the works.

“We had a win-win situation for the citizens of Jefferson County,” he said. “A-We were getting out of the nursing home business; B-We were receiving adequate compensation for the services rendered and; C-We were going to do that and actually improve the quality of care for our elderly throughout the county. All of that has been placed on hold by the actions of HealthSouth. I would sincerely hope they would reconsider so that we can move forward.”

Northport Holding wants to invest $24 million to build two new nursing homes to replace the Ketona home at sites it already purchased near Cahaba River and Caldwell Mill roads in Vestavia and at U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 in Hoover.

Northport Holding officials said moving licensed beds around within Jefferson County is not a major departure from the state health plan. They pointed to the fact that no other nursing home company challenged the move.

HealthSouth’s filing today came 10 days after HealthSouth filed its “notice of opposition and intervention” one hour before the deadline to block the deal out of concerns the move is not in keeping with the Alabama State Health Plan.

In the filing, HealthSouth said it does not want to see any unnecessary delays but wants to ensure the deal is properly vetted.

HealthSouth said in its filing it wants to make arguments before an administrative law judge in a contested case hearing separate from the scheduled June 20 meeting of the CON Review Board. The company said it would hope officials will assign a judge within 10 days of today’s request with hearings to begin within 45 days and completed within 90 days of the judge being assigned. The judge could then issue a decision within 30 days of the transcript being completed, the company said.

Among the arguments HealthSouth raised in its filing are:

  • The Hoover and Vestavia facilities to not meet the requirements for “replacement facilities,” and are not consistent with the applicable sections of the Alabama State Health Plan.
  • The patients in Jefferson County will not experience serious problems in obtaining inpatient skilled nursing care and the services proposed by the applicants without construction of the two new facilities.
  • Granting of the applications will add duplicative and unnecessary additional cost to the Alabama health care system and will specifically adversely impact the state Medicaid program which is currently in a critical financial crisis.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/05/jefferson_county_officials_fea.html

Huntsville Hospital asks state health planners to reconsider Crestwood angioplasty vote

Crestwood Medical Center.jpgCrestwood Medical Center in Huntsville has safely performed more than 700 angioplasty procedures since 2003 as part of a nationwide research trial sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Huntsville Hospital is asking the state Certificate of Need Review Board to reconsider its vote allowing Crestwood Medical Center to establish a permanent elective angioplasty program.

In seeking a new hearing, CEO David Spillers said Huntsville Hospital is not trying to stop Crestwood from offering the procedure. Rather, it is trying to make sure Crestwood follows updated American College of Cardiology angioplasty guidelines for hospitals without open-heart surgery.

“We’re asking them to reconsider the criteria by which Crestwood would perform the procedure, which is different than, ‘Should they perform it?’” Spillers said Friday.

Crestwood CEO Dr. Pam Hudson called the motion, filed May 15, “another deliberate attempt to create delay and distraction.”

“Our community has and deserves two quality angioplasty programs,” Hudson said Friday.

Crestwood has safely performed more than 700 angioplasty procedures since 2003 as part of a nationwide research trial sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, but it needed the blessing of state medical planners to continue the program once the study ends.

The CON Review Board granted that approval at its April 18 meeting in Montgomery. It placed several conditions on Crestwood’s license, however, including informing patients that they may have to be transported to another hospital for heart surgery if the procedure goes badly.

In its motion for a rehearing, Huntsville Hospital says Crestwood’s attorney “argued against any (American College of Cardiology) Guideline criteria being included in the Crestwood CON decision.”

During a meeting of the Statewide Health Coordinating Council two days later, the same lawyer, Colin Luke, supported adoption of a section of the guidelines for hospitals without on-site cardiac surgery.

“The position presented by Counsel for Crestwood is inconsistent with the (CON Review Board) Decision in this matter and justifies reconsideration,” wrote Huntsville Hospital attorney Joe Campbell.

Luke called the motion a “ridiculous delay” and noted that Crestwood’s application won unanimous support from the board’s seven voting members.

“It’s not a substantive issue,” he said Friday. “Huntsville Hospital ought to be embarrassed by this motion and ought to be spending their resources helping promote healthcare and choice in the community.”

Luke said the motion may be discussed at the review board’s next meeting June 20. In the meantime, Crestwood will be allowed to continue performing nonemergency angioplasty.

Angioplasty, or percutaneous coronary intervention, involves inflating a small balloon catheter to open a clogged coronary artery. A stent is typically left behind to hold the artery open so blood can flow normally.

A state-appointed administrative law judge who heard three days of testimony from both hospitals in January recommended that Crestwood be allowed to establish a permanent program.

The judge, Al Agricola, said Crestwood provided “clear and convincing scientific evidence” that angioplasty can be safely performed at hospitals without open-heart surgery backup and found that it would be “problematic” for a city Huntsville’s size to have a single program.

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Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/05/huntsville_hospital_asks_state.html