The judge overseeing Jefferson County, Ala.'s bankruptcy Thursday will be asked to stop a lawsuit filed by the city of Birmingham from going forward.

Mayor William Bell filed the suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court Aug. 10 on behalf of himself and the city in order to stop the County Commission from closing inpatient care at the county-owned Cooper Green Mercy Hospital for the indigent.

County commissioners voted formally on Tuesday to close the hospital because of its drain on the county's general fund for revenues, in addition to those that Cooper Green gets from a dedicated sales tax.

The decision had been postponed from a previous meeting due to its controversial nature.

The mayor's suit said that Bell believed county commissioners intended to transfer indigent patients to other hospitals, though no agreements to that effect were known.

While the exact closure plans have not been made public by the county, board members said they had meetings with local health officials on a plan to devise better care for the indigent.

Bell said about 60% of the patients at Cooper Green are residents of Birmingham, and Alabama state law requires the county to provide the care.

The hospital has 319 licensed beds, though it has an average of 65 patients daily.

A consultant hired by the county last year proposed several avenues for providing better health care and dealing with the hospital, which needs technology upgrades and maintenance capital that would cost up to $30 million over the next five years.

Jefferson County has asked federal bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett to enforce a provision that prevents lawsuits from going forward against the county, known as the automatic stay. The automatic stay went into effect when the county's Chapter 9 case was filed in November.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.