Alabama hospitals urge patients only go to emergency rooms for true emergencies and not for COVID-19 testing

The City of Haleyville will be using some of its American Rescue Plan monies to make some much-needed improvements at Lakeland Community Hospital.

The Haleyville City Council voted during its Aug. 16, meeting to take bids on repaving the front and back parking lots at the hospital.  Mayor Ken Sunseri and Council Members Brian Berry and Drew Thrasher were in the courtroom during the meeting, and Council Members Julie “Boo” Brooks and  Jonatan Bennett were both in attendance via speakerphone, a move that is currently allowed under the State of Emergency regarding COVID-19 that Governor Kay Ivey issued Aug. 13.  Council Member Blue Russell was absent from the meeting.

“We want to make improvements to and repave the parking lot,”  Sunseri told the council.  He said that Acting City Engineer Calvin Cassady reviewed the hospital’s parking area and estimates that the project will cost $278,000 to complete, which will include resufracing and striping the parking lot.

Under the American Rescue Plan, this project can be a portion of a plan to design and build open-air testing and triage sites at Lakeland.

“The emergency room entrance to the hospital is used for individuals to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.  The professional building is a site for COVID-19 testing.  The testing is performed at the front entrance,”  Sunseri said.  

Sunseri said that the proposed project would redesign the traffic flow and allow the staff to test, vaccinate and triage patients in the safety of their vehicles in an open air setting.

“This project will allow the hospital the ability to follow recommended CDC (Centers for Disease Control) protocols, including social distancing, masking  and protection of the most vulnerable.  The safety of patients is critical to offering vaccinations and testing,”  Sunseri said.

Lakeland CEO Ashley Pool agreed with Sunseri.

“This project will provide the hospital the ability to safely re-route patients through the parking area to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, as well as ensuring safe access to the hospital in general, including preventative and emergency care,” Pool said.

Pool noted that the parking lots of the hospital need to be in good shape in case a large-scale disaster struck.

“These areas are used to triage in case of mass emergency events related to forces of nature (tornadoes), chemical spills and for surges related to illnesses, such as COVID-19 or influenza. This project is critical to the safety of patients, staff, first responders and community members,”  Pool said.

The City of Haleyville and the Winston County Commission formed the Healthcare Authority of Haleyville and Winston County Alabama to purchase Lakeland Community Hospital in 2018 after Lakeland’s former owner planned to close the facility.  The City of Haleyville purchased the professional building in front of the hospital in 2020.

Both the City of Haleyville and the Winston County Commission appoint members to the healthcare authority, which owns and manages the hospital’s operations with the assistance of Java Health Group.  A portion of Haleyville’s sales tax and countywide property taxes are used to help support the hospital.

All council members voted in favor of taking bids for the project except for Bennett, who abstained.  Bennett is currently a member of the Healthcare Authority Board.

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