A combination of medical advances in South Baldwin County will help give residents and the scores of tourists who visit better service in the near future.
In Gulf Shores, the city and South Baldwin Regional Medical Center are working together to place a trauma center near the intersection of State Route 59 and Cotton Creek Drive. Orange Beach is contributing by starting and staffing its own ambulance service.
“Healthcare is one of our major goals we have made the least improvement on, but we have just today and yesterday made a huge advancement,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said in a state-of-the-city report at a recent breakfast meeting.
“We’re working with the South Baldwin hospital and the South Baldwin County Health Care Authority to build a free-standing emergency department on land we own next to the airport. That free-standing emergency room is important to all of us because ambulances can stop there.”
Craft said getting help to patients at the far reaches of Pleasure Island, from Ono Island on the east to Fort Morgan on the west, is difficult during the busy summer tourist season.
“Right now, there is nowhere in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach where ambulances can stop,” Craft said. “They have to go all the way to the north side of Foley. They have to get here from wherever they are, pick us up and then get back. If you’ve got to go to Ono Island or Fort Morgan, it’s impossible in a critical situation to take care of them. So have an emergency room in Gulf Shores that serves the island.”
Gulf Shores City Administrator Steve Griffin said it’s all but a done deal for the partnership on the emergency room.
“We’re in negotiations and its looking favorable,” Griffin said. “Everybody hasn’t signed on the bottom line yet but it’s real close.”
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon expressed his support for the new facility and its location in his speech at the same meeting.
“It is going to give us service for those with head trauma, heart attacks and strokes, saving 15 to 20 minutes to getting on the table with a doctor in front of you,” Kennon said. “That’s huge for us.”
With an eye on better response times and better care quickly, his city spent about $1 million to buy two ambulances and personnel to man them in November. The city already has one in reserve it had been using when MedStar Health, the former provider, was too far away or overwhelmed.
“Nothing against our previous provider, but when they are north of the bridge in the summer, it may take 45 minutes to an hour for them to get here to transport,” Kennon said. “We have two ambulances and a backup to get you from your house and in eight to 10 minutes be in the emergency room.”
When the agreement is finalized the hospital must apply to the State Health Planning and Development Agency to obtain a Certificate of Need before construction can start. That process takes about four to six months, Griffin said.
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