The Anniston-based hospital announced the purchase of Jacksonville Medical — now named RMC-Jacksonville — more than two weeks ago, but administrators there have still not revealed details about the purchase, including how much money changed hands. RMC officials say the hospital is exempt from the state’s Open Records Act under the Health Care Authorities Act, enacted in 1982 to create a level playing field of competition among public hospitals.
However, a state Supreme Court decision in 2010 stated that the Health Care Authorities Act did not exempt a public hospital from complying with open records law.
David McCormack, CEO of RMC, a nonprofit hospital with a board appointed by local governments, has said a confidentiality agreement between RMC and the seller, Tennessee-based Capella Healthcare, prevents him from revealing contract details. McCormack sent The Star an email Thursday that contained information about the Health Care Authorities Act that he said supported the confidentiality agreement.
“The state statute says we can’t do it,” McCormack said Monday regarding the release of the sales price.
Further attempts to reach McCormack on Thursday to discuss the statute and the Supreme Court case were unsuccessful.
In a separate Thursday email to The Star, Beth Wright, spokeswoman for Capella, also declined to reveal the final purchase price of the Jacksonville hospital.
“We are not able to provide the purchase price due to a confidentiality agreement that is part of the contract,” Wright wrote.
However, Dennis Bailey, an attorney for the Alabama Press Association, argued that as a hospital with a board appointed by local governments, RMC was subject the state’s open records law.
“There is no such statute,” Bailey wrote in an email to The Star. “There is a case indicating the opposite.”
The case in question is the 2010 Tennessee Valley Printing Co. v. Health Care Authority of Lauderdale County and the city of Florence. In that case, the Health Care Authority had sold two public hospitals and would not release to the Florence newspaper The TimesDaily financial details about the transactions, arguing the Health Care Authorities Act exempted it from open records law. It had also promised confidentiality to bidders.
The Alabama Supreme Court, however, ruled that as a governmental public entity, the Health Care Authority was subject to the state’s Open Records Act.
The Supreme Court noted that, “a private party cannot render public records exempt from disclosure merely by designating information it furnishes a governmental agency confidential. The right to examine these records is a right belonging to the public; it cannot be bargained away by a representative of the government.”
RMC-Jacksonville is an 89-bed hospital that opened in 1976 as Jacksonville Hospital under city ownership. It was sold to private owners in 1996 for $15.3 million. Regional Medical Center is a 338-bed facility that opened in 1944 and employs more than 1,300 people.
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.