On Nov. 15, 2006, a group of doctors and a Nashville development company, collectively known as Physicians Medical Center, completed their purchase of Carraway Methodist Medical Center. The group had made the highest bid for the hospital during an auction on Nov. 7. The sale came after years of financial woes and growing debt for the hospital. In September of this year the hospital had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
This bankruptcy sale means the hospital has freed itself from most of its debt. The sale also means the name of the facility will change and the relationship between the hospital and the United Methodist Church will come to an end as the nonprofit hospital becomes for-profit.
The sale will also affect another North Alabama Conference ministry. United Methodist Pastoral Care and Counseling, which has been housed at Carraway for almost 30 years, is beginning the search for new office space.
Executive Director of United Methodist Pastoral Care and Counseling Rev. Sheri Ferguson explained that at the group’s October board meeting they established a task force to consider physical space options for the ministry.
When discussing the sale of the hospital she says, “We are now in a vulnerable position.” However, she added that the ministry is seeing the sale as “an opportunity to re-identify ourselves” and to align the ministry with a new strategic plan the Board also adopted in October.
That strategic plan sets a goal that by the year 2009, Pastoral Care and Counseling counselors will be available to all North Alabama clergy and congregations within a one-hour drive. So the Board sees itself moving to a multi-campus model with offices located throughout the North Alabama Conference area.
Rev. Ferguson said, the sale of Carraway “forces us to be doing what we need to be doing.”
The challenge to finding new locations is that during the time the ministry has been housed at Carraway they have paid no rent. This allowed their entire budget to go to ministry and not physical space. The Board would like to find locations to keep them ministry focused.
Rev. Ferguson explained that an ideal space would have three or four offices and a reception area. It would be located in part of a church building that is not heavily used or in a separate building.
The Board of Pastoral Care and Counseling is now asking North Alabama churches that have space - such as unused parsonages or other unused buildings – or church members that would like make a charitable gift of property to consider partnering with Pastoral Care and Counseling by providing physical space for the ministry.
Their expected timeline is to relocate during the spring of 2007.
If your congregation is interested you may contact Rev. Ferguson [(205) 502-5089 or 1-800-477-5979 or firstname.lastname@example.org] or Terry McElheny who is serving as the chair of the physical space task force.
Rev. Ferguson also said she has appreciated North Alabama United Methodists’ concerns since the sale of the hospital. “I’ve gotten lots of phone calls. Thanks for thinking of us.”
She also expressed her gratitude for Carraway. “They have hosted us for 30 years. January of 2007 will be 30 years they have let us be here. This is quite a commitment to this ministry.”
Bishop Will Willimon also expressed his gratitude for the health care Carraway has offered the Birmingham area for almost 100 years. “We celebrate and give thanks for that history and the relationship the hospital and church have shared.”
For almost 100 years, Carraway has provided quality heath care, educational opportunities for physicians and a connection of faith to the Methodist Church. The hospital was started by a Methodist doctor named Dr. Charles Newton “C.N.” Carraway when, in 1908, he opened a 16-bed infirmary that served the mining communities near Pratt City. Opening this facility led him to develop a contract system with local companies, agreeing to provide health care for workers and their families in an exchange for a small monthly fee. The practice grew and in 1916 he opened the 35-bed Norwood Hospital in the Norwood Community of Birmingham. During his career not only was Dr. Carraway dedicated to quality healthcare, but he also became dedicated to improving educational opportunities for physicians. Through the years as the services of Carraway grew, two more generations of Carraway’s, Dr. Ben and Dr. Robert Carraway, helped lead the hospital. Each Dr. Carraway acknowledged the importance of the relationship between the service of hospital and the faith of United Methodists.
In an article which appeared in the January 2000 issue of The Voice magazine, Dr. Robert P. Carraway said, “Through the years this organization has accomplished great things because we always had great people, great technology and, perhaps most importantly, great faith.”