DCH, University of Alabama Reportedly Exploring Partnership; City Leaders United in Support
City leaders unanimously support of a partnership reportedly being negotiated between the DCH Health System and the University of Alabama, according to a statement signed earlier this month.
The Thread has obtained a copy of a statement signed by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and all seven members of the city council on August 4th.
The statement refers to 36 months of extensive discussions between DCH officials and government leaders in Tuscaloosa, Northport, and the county about the hospital, its long-term financial health, emergency room services, mental health services, capital investments and recruitment and retention of first-class medical professionals - challenges and discussions the Thread has documented extensively.
"These challenges facing DCH are daunting and limit the opportunities to expand health care services and needed capital investments," their joint statement read.
According to the document, the University of Alabama System "has expressed an interest in exploring an affiliation with DCH which has possibilities to enhance and expand the quality of health care services in Tuscaloosa County and the region."
Every elected official in City Hall is in support of that outcome, according to the statement.
"I, Mayor Walt Maddox, and the City Council of Tuscaloosa do hereby affirm unanimous support for DCH to seek a partnership with the UAS," their statement said. "Furthermore, the City Council of Tuscaloosa expects DCH's representative to engage in good faith negotiations with representatives of the University of Alabama System."
Their statement then laid out seven principles they expect to guide any partnership between DCH and the University System, including commitments to expanding health care programs and "significant" capital investments to modernize DCH's facilities.
"Working to provide the best health care possible for the citizens of Tuscaloosa has been, and continues to be, a top priority of the City’s leadership," the city's director of communications Richard Rush told the Thread. "Many positive discussions are taking place and the joint letter from the Mayor and Council shares their intentions as conversations continue.”
DCH CEO Katrina Keefer told the Thread that she is committed to the financial health of the System and its three hospitals.
"The Mayor’s resolution outlines in a formal way what he has been saying publicly for the last several years. As the Mayor indicated, these financial conditions are challenging but they are not dire," Keefer said. "Our leadership is working aggressively to ensure the financial stability of our health system while continuing to expand high-quality care to the communities we serve. I have appreciated the opportunity to have ongoing conversations with him, other appointing authority officials, and the University of Alabama System officials since my arrival."
Keefer has been at the helm for just over a year - she was hired to secede longtime CEO Bryan Kindred when he retired in August 2022.
She declined to discuss the negotiations the city's statement references.
"We are continually looking for ways to improve the quality and access to health care for the citizens of West Alabama, but it is our policy that we do not comment on any substantive discussions between DCH and any other health care provider," Keefer said.
For continued coverage of the DCH System and updates on the proposed partnership if any are made available, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.