Cardinal Hill, our truly great local rehab hospital, announced last week that it has been sold to HealthSouth, a Birmingham based health conglomerate.
The announcement of the sale, to me, was strange. It seemed to come out of thin air; I saw no news conference footage on any local TV station, as if they just sent the sale story to the Herald Leader. If you don’t hold a news conference, you don’t have a lot of reporters asking tough questions.
And tough questions should be asked about this sale.
HealthSouth has a checkered past, to put it lightly. It was formed by a man, Richard Scrushy, who has been charged with many SEC violations, basically for cooking the books...but was found not guilty by a local jury. He was later tried on political bribery charges, along with the governor, convicted, but may escape additional prison time because the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the law afterwards. In Alabama, he seems to have more than 9 lives in court. Most of these law violations were in the past, perhaps 8-10 years ago and I’m sure the firm will say "our founder’s gone, we’ve cleaned up our act..and we really want to buy Cardinal Hill.”
Maybe so, but the headline in the Herald Leader said "all services to remain the same.” I don’t believe that. I’ve yet to see a sale like this, in any field, where everything stayed the same. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.
I don’t know if there is a state agency that has to approve this sale, but if so, I hope they look into it very carefully. Maybe our consumer advocate, the attorney general, should do so. And I am surprised that the Herald Leader hasn’t raised an objection, editorially, and run some story on HealthSouth’s seamy background.
This is another great local institution we should not give up without a fight, or at least knowing a lot more about HealthSouth and its current operations and standards than we do.
I'm just sayin'...