CHS wins big Alabama court victory

Franklin company can proceed with plans to finish hospital HealthSouth abandoned

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday said Community Health Systems can move forward with its long-standing plans to replace its largest hospital, Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham.

Alabama's top judges declined to take up the appeal by two competitors to Trinity, which had contended that CHS' $280 million plan to build a replacement hospital on Highway 280 in Birmingham would unfairly hurt their business. The parties' dispute dates back to 2008, when CHS officials said they wanted to finish the construction of a hospital HealthSouth abandoned in 2003.

"Finally, we can bring to life a hospital that has been wanted and needed by this community for very long time," said Wayne Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Franklin-based CHS. "Our investment will positively impact the community in every way — by increasing convenient access to care for more residents, igniting new economic development and providing the outstanding medical community in Birmingham with a state-of-the-art facility for patient care."

Construction on the new Trinity Medical Center is expected to begin late this summer, six years after CHS acquired the current hospital, which is the company's only property with more than 500 beds. The work is expected to take up to two years.

To win its legal fight, Smith and his team enlisted a number of heavy hitters: The company's statement on Friday's court ruling contains supportive comments from Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and Birmingham Mayor William Bell as well as William Canary, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

Shares of CHS (Ticker: CYH) ended Friday's session at $44.66, down 1.2 percent on the day. Year to date, they've climbed 45 percent.