By Alan Collins
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Two candidates in the special election for district one for the Jefferson County Commission, are in agreement on one issue. They oppose efforts to sell the Jefferson County Rehabilitation and Health Center which is the county run nursing home.
Earlier this week, Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins announced the county is taking the first step in selling the county home. "The county is subsidizing the county home by three to four million dollars out of the county budget," Collins said.
Collins says the county should not be in the healthcare business. The commission president says the county home residents could be taken care of with a new owner or they could be transferred to another facility.
Next week, the Jefferson County Commission is set to vote on a contract for a consultant to advise the county about a potential sale.
On Friday, Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin, who is in a runoff for district one, voiced his opposition to the sale. "It is every citizen's right to have access to healthcare and affordable healthcare. When we are looking at the county, should the county be in the business of healthcare? Absolutely."
Austin believes federal funds can keep the county home open.
Former Jefferson County Commissioner George Bowman is also in the runoff. Bowman says he also will fight any attempt to get rid of the facility. The future of the county home is a hot topic in this race because some believe this could be the first step in getting rid of another healthcare facility. "If the county commission is considering closing this facility, I fear this is the first step in closing Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, which I'm going to fight to insure that doesn't happen," Austin said.
Both candidates are asking the county commission to hold off on the consultant contract until the district one seat is filled. The special election runoff is set for June 22nd.
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