Gulf Shores one step closer to freestanding Emergency Department


After more than 15 years of planning by the Gulf Shores Health Care Authority, the city of Gulf Shores is one step closer to a freestanding emergency department.

During the rescheduled regular council meeting Nov. 12, the city council approved a resolution to authorize the execution of a ground lease with Foley Hospital Corporation, which is South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, and is owned by their parent company Community Health Systems.

This lease is to establish a free-standing emergency department on city property commonly referred to as “the 11 acres” the city owns just west of the airport and east of Hwy 59. The lease agreement will provide up to six acres to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center to establish the freestanding emergency department.

A freestanding emergency department provides the same level of care as a hospital emergency room and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Facilities are staffed by emergency trained physicians and are able to receive ground and air transport. Additionally, advance services such as X-ray, ultrasound, diagnostic services and advance lab testing are available.

The Gulf Shores facility plans call for a 13,387 sq. ft. building with eight exam rooms, triage, imaging services, lab services, on-site pharmacy and patient and staff support areas and helipad. The total projected cost is $15.2 million with $10.2 million of that amounting to construction costs. The remaining amount will be used to purchase medical equipment.

The future economic development of this project will bring 40-50 full-time jobs in health care to the community.

This was walked onto the agenda because the Certificate of Need hearing is Nov. 20 in Montgomery. Certificate of Need (CON) programs are aimed at restraining health care facility costs and facilitating coordinated planning of new services and facility construction.

“We wanted to make sure this lease was in place so South Baldwin Regional Medical could have everything buttoned up and had everything to proceed to that hearing and hopefully obtain that CON Nov. 20 and move forward with this project. If the CON is obtained construction is projected to begin in the Fall of 2020 with completion Fall 2021,” said Blake Phelps, City of Gulf Shores economic development coordinator.

“It was around 15 years ago we met to start talking about this project and it’s taken a long time. Everyone here needs to know it was not just hours, but days, weeks and years have been spent to get us to this point to where I think we finally have the ability to create a first-class emergency facility in our community. It will become somewhat of an anchor facility that I think will expand to other health care facilities and services on this site,” said Dr. Gaylon McCollough, member of the Gulf Shores Healthcare Authority.

McCollough continued, “The extension of the dream the Healthcare Authority has had is for us to develop our own health care campus in Gulf Shores. We need it for our permanent residents and our guests and it’s going to make this a desirable place. When people look around to see where they are going to settle in or retire, health care is high on the list and education is right there with it. We have already made great strides with our city school system. This is the next step to getting us to be a community that is going to be desirable to people around the world.”

When the floor was opened to questions or comment from the community only one resident had a question regarding the level of trauma the facility will be able to handle and if patients would still have to go to Mobile or Pensacola. Councilman Dr. Jason Dyken fielded the question.

“There are different levels of trauma and the facility will be rated but if it’s a major trauma the only level one trauma center, I believe, is South Alabama. I don’t know what level our center will be, but it should be able to handle a large percentage of traumatic injuries that occur in our community,” Dyken said.