Plans to open a stand-alone emergency clinic in Daphne are moving ahead now that Thomas Hospital, an affiliate of Infirmary Health, has received approval of a certificate of need for the clinic, which would be only the third of its kind in the state.
Until Friday, when Infirmary Health announced the State Health Planning and Development Agency’s approval, the applicants were criticized by some in the community for the lack of details about the clinic’s possible location or appearance.
According to a statement released Nov. 13 by Thomas Hospital President Ormond Thompson, the new facility — likely at the southwest intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and State Route 181 — will offer a full range of services for emergency care currently not offered in the Daphne and Spanish Fort areas. The statement said freestanding emergency departments are able to provide many of the same services offered at traditional emergency rooms, and the clinic will be open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, providing the same care as a traditional emergency room.
“The new facility will provide emergency care as if we had Thomas Hospital’s emergency department relocated to the Daphne area,” Thompson said. “In addition to providing quality care, we are excited that this new facility will also create a host of health-care-related jobs for the community.”
According to Daphne City Council President Pat Rudicell, the city received notice Nov. 13 that the applicant, Malbis Plantation Inc., submitted a zoning application to the Baldwin County Planning Commission for the proposed site — one currently outside of the city’s zoning jurisdiction.
This week Baldwin County Planning Director Vince Jackson confirmed the planning commission has scheduled a hearing Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Baldwin County Central Annex in Robertsdale for the proposal. The applicant is seeking a zoning change from the parcel’s current residential single-family designation to the neighborhood business designation, which Jackson said would allow for a stand-alone emergency center.
The location is the same site where a previous application to develop a CVS Pharmacy failed in 2014 after a year-long battle.
In October, the Daphne City Council approved a gift of $30,000 to Thomas Hospital’s birthing center campaign — a $25,000 increase over the proposed allocation — with the stipulation Infirmary Health locate an emergency clinic in Daphne.
“We want this emergency center to be built in Daphne,” Rudicell said. “We think donating to the neonatal center is a benefit to Infirmary Health as well as the city. Even though the birth center isn’t in the city, we do have a lot of people in Daphne who will use the center and many people who live in Daphne work there. So the donation would be good for both of us.”
Rudicell said he believes the emergency clinic will be a benefit to Daphne and surrounding cities, but because the proposed location sits outside of Daphne’s corporate limits, the city would have to annex the land into the city to receive any tax revenue.
Meanwhile, Councilman John Lake believes another location, specifically the intersection of Baldwin County 13 and U.S. Highway 90, is better suited for the clinic. Lake is concerned about the increase in traffic Malbis residents would face, as well as the difficulty ambulances may have getting in and out of the Malbis property, which already experiences high traffic volume. But he said he is confident Infirmary Health officials have studied potential locations to find the best fit.
“It seems like at that busy intersection, it would be a conflict with the traffic there if they want to be able to get emergency vehicles in and out easily,” Lake said. “An ER facility will need quick access in and out of the site, in my opinion.”
Yet Lake agreed a 24-hour facility would be a great benefit to residents in Daphne, Loxley and Spanish Fort.
“This would not be like an urgent-care place,” he said. “People here wouldn’t have to go to Bay Minette, Fairhope or Mobile for emergency services when this opens. I do think a stand-alone emergency center would be good for the city.”
Thompson noted Thomas Hospital has served the Eastern Shore more than 50 years and currently has more than 1,100 employees and approximately 200 physicians.
“We have received a considerable amount of community support regarding this project and are excited to take a leadership role in being the first in our area to offer this new service that will expand health care access in Baldwin County — the fastest-growing county in the state,” he said. “We look forward to caring for the residents with these enhanced services.”