Commissioners call for state investigation of Cooper Green funds - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Commissioners call for state investigation of Cooper Green funds

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

A meeting about Cooper Green's finances turned into a big political argument. Now, there is a call for an investigation about where indigent care money is going.

An informational meeting quickly turned into a verbal fight between state representatives and Jefferson County Commissioners. Representatives John Rogers and Mary Moore say a half a billion dollars is missing from indigent care funds. County commissioners and the county manager say that's not true.

Community leaders,  patients, and state leaders filed into a Pratt City church -  to find a better way to provide healthcare to those who can't afford it. Willie Osborne is one of them.

"You can go for treatment if you're not working or have little or no money," Willie Osborne, a Cooper Green patient said. 

The meeting quickly sparked a firey debate. Representative John Rogers- and  Representative Mary Moore claim a half billion dollars is missing from the indigent care fund-- and Rogers told commissioners they've lied.

"It's a cash cow for you," he said from the podium.

Commissioner Sandra Little Brown defended her commitment to Cooper Green and - because of the allegations, called for a full investigation.

"I want a full fledged investigation of the money," Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said during the meeting. 

"I am going to second Commissioner Brown's resolution - she and I talked about this this afternoon. There have been serious threats," Commission President, David Carrington said.

"Anytime you take money illegally it's stealing," Representative John Rogers, (D) District 52 said. "The law says it should be given to indigent care - not administrative costs."

County Manager Tony Petelos told us there's no money missing from the fund.

'The discussion that the commissioners had was do you close inpatient care," Tony Petelos, County Manager said. "But there was never the discussion of just closing the doors and shutting the lights out."

Patients say the arguments are worrying people who depend on the hospital for help.

"If you're unemployed - you don't have any insurance and that's our last refuge," Osborne said.

Petelos says the real problem is that Cooper Green has not operated within its budget for several years and losing the occupational tax left little to support Cooper Green.

One suggestion on the table is moving Copper Green from Jefferson County's hands- to the city of Birmingham or a private non profit.