Plans unveiled for Eastern Shore Hospital in Baldwin County, Alabama

Residents of Fairhope and surrounding communities who need inpatient psychiatric services for senior and adult family members may soon be able to seek that care close to home.

SeniorHealth, a company that specializes in providing inpatient psychiatric services and operates psychiatric units in several other Alabama communities, has proposed plans to build a 48-bed hospital providing adult and geriatric psychiatric services in Fairhope, on property near Thomas Hospital.

"We look forward to serving the families of Fairhope and the Eastern Shore," said Richard Algood, vice president of SeniorHealth. "We selected this location because it is imperative for a successful inpatient senior psychiatry program to be located very near a general hospital. With the proximity of Thomas Hospital, this location provides good access for physicians and will be comfortable and easily accessible for patients and families."

Eastern Shore Hospital will have a widespread impact on the economic development of the Eastern Shore area. When the new hospital opens for patient care, it will add 80-100 jobs.

The new hospital also will be a tax-paying entity, growing Fairhope's tax base by a substantial amount annually. It will be funded entirely with private equity, leaving much-needed government and tax-exempt healthcare funds for other community healthcare needs.

The proposed two-story hospital will cost about $10 million to build and could be open for patient care in the latter months of 2008. SeniorHealth has filed a certificate of need application with the state and expects the application to be heard in April.

Eastern Shore Hospital will fill a critical community need without tapping public funding, said Emmett Poundstone, former commissioner of mental health for the state of Alabama.

"Several months ago the state appointed a Task Force to address serious overcrowding at State Hospital acute-care units," said Poundstone. "The Task Force reported that one of the reasons for the overcrowding was the critical shortage of inpatient psychiatric hospital beds. The proposed hospital in Fairhope would address this critical need. The fact that the hospital would be constructed and operated by the private sector means that no public funding would be necessary."

SeniorHealth has a solid track record of providing quality psychiatric services in other Alabama communities. The company presently operates psychiatric units in Hartselle, Greenville, Carrollton, Tallassee, Winfield, and Ozark, and recently received state approval to build River Region Hospital, a 60-bed psychiatric facility in Montgomery.

"We look forward to serving the families of the Eastern Shore area. State data shows that this area is underserved, and with the continued growth of the Baldwin County population, the need will continue to grow. These patients and their families will be served with quality healthcare services, close to home." said Algood.