Status Conference held in State AG lawsuit against bingo operations in Greene County

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Friday, September 28, 2018 there was a legal status conference in Eutaw on a lawsuit filed in October 2017 by Alabama Attorney General, Steve Marshall, against all electronic bingo operators in Greene County. The State of Alabama seeks to end the “public nuisance of unlawful gambling in Greene County by ending the use of slot machines and other gaming devices at five ‘casinos’ in the county”. State Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed similar lawsuits against electronic bingo in Houston, Montgomery, Lowndes and other counties, which like Greene, have passed Constitutional amendments to permit bingo. “This lawsuit is a clear and profound threat to economy, health and welfare of the people of Greene County,” said Attorney Michael Trucks of Fairfield who represents The Center for Rural Family Development, Inc. DBA Green Charity, one of the defendants in the case. Trucks pointed out in his interview with the Democrat that Greene County voters passed Constitutional Amendment 743, which permits “bingo and electronic forms of bingo to operate in Greene County”. He also indicated that Greene County’s Amendment 743 is the only one that specifically permits “electronic forms of bingo”, which the State of Alabama argues are illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette, Alabama, is hearing the case since local Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway had to recuse himself from the case. At Friday’s hearing, Judge Moore asked all of the plaintiffs and defendants in the case, the operators and charities connected to the five bingo establishments, to attend the legal conference to discuss the status and scheduling of the case. John L. Kachelman III, Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of Steve Marshall, Attorney General, represented the State of Alabama. Lawyers representing Greenetrack asked that the three main charities supporting its operations, E-911, Woman to Woman, Inc. and Greene County Association of Volunteer Firefighters be added as defendant to the lawsuit. Other lawyers asked to add the main beneficiaries of bingo fees through the Greene County Sheriff’s office including the Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Health System, Greene County municipalities and others, who receive monthly support from the bingo operations, as defendant in the lawsuit, so they could speak to the damages to their constituents and services from ending electronic bingo in the county.

Judge James Moore asked all the parties to recommend additional defendants in 14 days. He will decide which defendant groups to add to the lawsuit and give additional time to serve those entities with the lawsuit and time for them to give a response. Attorney Trucks said that he did not expect this process to be completed until early in the new year of 2019. Commenting on this lawsuit, County Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown of District 1 said, “ I have been warning for a long time that we cannot count on bingo funds forever. There is a simple way to deal with this lawsuit and that is to vote for the Democratic candidates for Governor, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on November 6.” “Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, Joe Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Bob Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court all support Amendment 743 and will not interfere or try to stop electronic bingo operations in Greene County. If they are elected on November 6, this lawsuit will be withdrawn. “Anyone who is concerned about the jobs and livelihoods of Greene County people working in bingo and the many organizations, county agencies and charities serving the people of Greene County, based on bingo funds, need to turnout and vote for the Democratic candidates on November 6. You are crazy if you don’t vote that way,” said Commissioner Brown.

Terri Sewell holds ‘Congress in Your Community’ meeting at Greene County Health System

Terri Sewell.jpg

On Friday, December 15, 2017, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell held a ‘Congress in Your Community’ meeting in the dining room of the Greene County Residential Care Center. About 40 people attended the meeting.
Congresswoman Sewell thanked the people for coming out to listen and participate in the meeting, which she brings annually to every county in her district to seek input and questions from people about the work of Congress and the Federal government.Sewell thanked the people of Greene County and other voters in the Seventh Congressional District for their overwhelming support of Doug Jones in the December 12th Special Election. “The Seventh District was the only congressional district that Doug Jones won but he won by such an overwhelming majority, due to Black voters, that he will become our next Senator,” said Sewell. “I look forward to working with him in Congress for the benefit of Greene County and other parts of Alabama.”

Sewell said that she was working in Congress to find ways to help rural hospitals survive by seeking higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates and finding other special programs to help rural hospitals in her district and in rural areas across the nation. Greene County Health System is one of several rural health care facilities in her district that is facing financial difficulties, including facilities in Wilcox and Sumter counties.

The Congresswoman, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed concern that the “tax reform bill” wending its way through Congress favors the richest people and doesn’t do as much as it should to help poor and working people. “This tax bill takes away some tax provisions like the New Markets Tax Credit which helps economically distressed communities to rebuild.” Said Sewell.

Sewell recommended that voters visit her website to sign up for newsletters, Federal grant program advisories and other important information.

Community Conversation urges political participation on Dec. 12 to deal with community issues

Doug Jones

U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones addresses community meeting in Greene County

A ‘Community Conversation’ on Monday, October 30, 2017, at the Eutaw Activity Center sponsored by Greene County Chapter of Alabama New South Alliance, supported by the Greene County Chapter of Alabama Democratic Conference and other groups, heard from community leaders, elected officials, ordinary citizens and a special guest.
The conversation dealt with three important issues – supporting the Greene County Health System, providing more recreational and educational opportunities for young people and involving more people in voting and the democratic process.

Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate, in the December 12 Special Election, attended the meeting and made some remarks in support of his election.
Greetings were given by State Senator Bobby Singleton and State Representative Artis J. McCampbell. Both legislators strongly endorsed Jones and urged voters to participate and vote in the December 12 Special Election.
Commissioner Allen Turner, District 4 County Commissioner gave the occasion for the meeting suggesting that the community must participate and get involved and offer leadership and direction in solving problems facing Greene County.
John Zippert, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greene County Health System, reviewed some of the problems facing the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic. He said that some of the financial problems of the health system came from Federal health-care uncertainties and the failure of the State of Alabama to extend Medicaid but the rest was our local responsibility in Greene County. He said, “ if we don’t use our health care system –we will surely lose it. We have doctors, facilities and services in Greene County which we need to use first before we go elsewhere to get our healthcare.”
Lorenzo French discussed the importance of providing more recreational opportunities for young people in the county. He said that he was committed to starting a little league baseball team in the coming year. French’s comments set off an animated discussion by others on the problems of Greene County in providing adequate recreation and sports activities to involve young people. A committee was proposed as a way for more people to get involved in working to provide opportunities for young people.
Sara Duncan and Commissioner Lester Brown spoke on the importance of voting and getting people registered and prepared to vote in the December 12th Special Election.
Duncan says that she encounters many people who tell her voting doesn’t matter, it won’t change things and that their vote doesn’t count. “I am very patient with these people. I talk to them about the struggle and history of voting in Greene County and the relationship of voting to the progress we have made in Greene County.”
After talking some will agree to register.
Lester Brown said, “ The Special Election on December 12 is critical to opening the doors for Democratic candidates to run in 2018 for Governor and other state offices. We must work to get everyone to vote in this Special Election. Absentee and Walk-in voting are available right now, starting today, at the Circuit Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse. If you plan to be out of town on Election Day, you can walk-in to the Clerk’s office and vote early. This is a sure way to make sure you vote and have your vote counted.”
Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for U. S. Senate, spoke at the end of the meeting. “I am glad that I attended this meeting and listened to the people of Greene County talk about some of the problems and issues in Greene County. This is not my last meeting or visit to Greene County. I will be back here after I am elected to work with you on the problems.”
Jones said his staff advised him, when he was U. S. Attorney that prosecuting the Klu Klux Klan for the bombing and murders at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a ‘long-shot’. “We took that long shot and won the convictions. We face another long-shot now in this election, but I feel that we are on the right side of history and will win this election with your support,” said Jones.

Sheriff Joe Benison meets with Hospital Board to discuss bingo funds

Sheriff- Hostil

L to R: GCHS Board members: Margaret Bir, Sheriff Benison, Lucy Spann, Elmore Patterson, Jasmine Smith, Pinnia Hines, Shirley Edwards and Rosemary Edwards. Not shown are Eddie Austin and John Zippert who also attended the meeting.

Greene County Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison, together with his executive assistant and bingo clerks, met with the Greene County Health System (GCHS) Board of Directors as part of their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with the Board their concerns over the status of payments from electronic bingo parlors to the GCHS, which operates the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and home health services.
On June 2, 2016, Sheriff Benison adopted a new rule for bingo which stipulated that the Greene County Hospital was to receive a fee of 4% of the amount paid to vendors, who provide bingo machines, to be paid to the hospital for providing health care services to the residents of Greene County.

The Sheriff adopted this rule change as a way to share some of the revenues generated by electronic bingo, under Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, with the Greene County Health Care System.
Based upon estimates from the bingo clerks, Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System projected receiving $3,500 per month from each of the four operating bingo parlors as of June 2016. This would total $14,000 per month or $168,000 per year.

The GCHS Board informed the Sheriff that since adoption of the rule in June 2016, the health facilities have not received these 4% fees from the vendors. The GCHS has received an average of $5,133 per month for the hospital and $ 1,104 per month for the residential care center (nursing home). These averages include a one-time payment of $30,000 from Greenetrack and smaller donations as a sub-charity from all of the bingo operation. The Anchor Group, the charity operating the River’s Edge Bingo facility is the only operation that has been paying the 4% vendors fee under the Sheriff’s rules.
Sheriff Benison said that he understood the Greene County Health System’s concerns with the shortfall in the 4% vendors fee.
He said that he wanted to discuss this with the bingo operators, including the Palace Bingo, a new electronic bingo hall at the Knoxville Exit on Interstate 20/59. He said that after he consults with the bingo operators that he and his clerks would report back to the GCHS Board of Directors.
Elmore Patterson thanked the Sheriff for attending the meeting and said, “Health care is critical to Greene County. The GCHS is providing quality health care to residents of Greene County and surrounding areas. I just reported to the Board that we had an overall operating loss of $538,000 for the first six months of this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2016. This loss matches the half a million dollars of uncompensated care that the GCHS provided to Greene County citizens, during the same time period, with limited incomes who lack insurance or other health care payers. We are looking to electronic bingo, the county government and others sources to help us cover our deficit which basically comes from serving the people of our county who are poor and not covered by any health insurance.”
All of the GCHS Board members also thanked the Sheriff for coming and listening to the concerns of the community. The members said they hoped to hear some positive response from the bingo establishments and the Sheriff in the coming weeks.

A renewed Greene County Health System…Part 2

By Mynecia D. Steele


Greene County Residential Care Center residents socialize as they enjoy a balanced meal prepared by the cafeteria staff.

The Greene County Health System (GCHS) believes in reaching out to the community, says CEO, Elmore Patterson. “We are encouraging people to come to the Greene County Health System through campaigns, billboards, posters and our website,” Patterson stated.
GCHS hosts free semi-annual health fairs. These fairs are held with the intention of educating the public on health information, benefits and services that are available to them. These events are open to all, Greene County and surrounding communities alike.


Monthly health screenings are also provided throughout the county along with diabetes classes. Many Greene County residents suffer with high blood pressure and diabetes.
Town Hall meetings are held on a quarterly bases sponsored by the Greene County Health System. These meetings allow the community to voice their opinions and bring any concerns or thoughts to the attention of the GCHS.
Patterson shared that the Greene County Health System also started the “I am Greene because . . .” campaign to give the community a chance to show their support for the health system.  One poster features Thom Smith, who says, “I am Greene because GCH saved me from a massive stroke.”
Last year, the GCHS hosted A Day of Service in Branch Heights. As a result of this service project, every child in the Branch Heights community received eye checks and general physicals before the start of the school term.
GCHS also provides meals to the elderly every November.
The Greene County Health System hopes to make its mark on Greene County.  It strives to continue working with the community and informing them about health care and health disparities affecting African Americans in most rural areas.
GCHS provides the only hospital in Greene County, therefore, it becomes the safety net hospital, said Patterson. This means that the GCHS must provide care for people who have no money, or limited resources.  Many Greene County citizens do not have healthcare. The GCHS must provide for them with no profit in return.
“The county’s health status is lacking because the state of Alabama did not expand Medicaid,” Patterson said. “We care for about 1.2 million dollars of uncompensated healthcare.  The community must work together to help with those uncompensated people,” said Patterson.
He expressed appreciation to Greenetrack, Inc. and the sheriff’s department for the help they have provided recently.
The Greene County Health System is directing more people into its primary care. By visiting a primary care center, patients have the opportunity to build a relationship with a care provider whom they can follow up with regularly.
Patients who visit primary care are also more likely to take their medication, and less likely to come into the emergency room for non-emergency services.
The Greene County Health System plans to expand by setting up a primary care clinic in Boligee.
Many people don’t realize that the Greene County Hospital is the closest emergency room in the West corridor of Alabama on I-20, which leads into Mississippi.  Therefore, the Greene County Health System cares for many motor vehicle accident victims.
If outside people are willing to put their lives in the hands of the Greene County Health System, GCHS team hopes that the citizens of Greene County will also give them a chance.
“The only way you’re going to know if its good or bad, is trying it.” Patterson said. “Trying it for yourself; not going off of a rumor. We have to get past that.  GCHS is ours. We should use the facilities and support them as well,” he emphasized.

A renewed Greene County Health System Part 1

By Mynecia D. Steele

Imaging Room

The X-ray equipment located at the Greene County Hospital can be seen in an upgraded, under water themed, X-ray room.

The Greene County Health System (GCHS) is constantly working on improving its facilities and reputation, says Mr. Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System.
Patterson has worked to upgrade the Greene County Health System, and in less than three years of holding this position he has overseen various renovations.
But, Patterson does not take all the credit for the current condition of the Greene County Health System. Great employees create a comfortable environment for the patients and residents.
GCHS only hires the best Patterson said. There are three full time physicians, Medical Director, Dr. Salahuddin Farooqui, MD; Dr. Thomas McDermott, MD; Dr. Michael Gordon, MD; currently working within the health system.
The staff also includes one part time physician and two nurse practitioners, Kurtizzia Howard, CRNP and Cheryl Hill, CRNP. Each physician is board certified.
GCHS also has about 150 other full time employees. The staff includes: registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), certified nursing assistants (CNA), business office people and engineers. GCHS even works with the Greene County School System, providing its nurses to work in the schools.
Great staff is grounds for well-run facilities. The Greene County Health System is CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) certified. This is the same certification that all Alabama health centers are required to meet.
Yes, the facilities in the Greene County Health System are held to the same standards as all other health care facilities in Alabama. But, GCHS strives to go beyond the minimum requirements set by the state of Alabama.

Three Main Departments

The Greene County Health System is divided into three main departments. These departments are: the Greene County Physicians Clinic, Greene County Residential Care Center and the Greene County Hospital.
In addition to the three main departments, the GCHS provides urgent care, home health, rehab (including: physical, occupational, and speech therapy), radiology (including: x-ray and CT (computerized axial tomography) scans, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, Nuclear Medicine Testing and women’s care (mammography and bone density scanning).
The Greene County Physicians Clinic provides in house laboratory services, immunization vaccines for children, Medicaid EPSDT screenings, in house EKG services, injections (B12, Flu, Pneumonia, allergy), yearly exams, physicals (sports, DOT etc.), referrals to specialty services as needed, Saturday Clinic, mammograms and dexascans according to the GCHS website:
All of these treatments are readily available at the Greene County Health facilities.
And, accessing the facilities is not a problem either. GCHS provides transportation for Greene County residents who don’t have a way to the GCHS campus.
The Greene County Health System not only provides a productive atmosphere for healing, but the facilities are top notch, as well, Patterson said.
“To bring a hospital to current health care trends, was a challenge,” Patterson said. “But, that’s where we are now.
“We are able to provide the same health care services that you can have rendered at any hospital in Alabama, for the care that we provide.”

Many Improvements Made

Many improvements have been made since Patterson became CEO.  The hospital is a 1958 Hill-Burton hospital. There had been no renovations before he arrived nearly three years ago, said Patterson.
Today, the facilities now have a much more modern look.
Showers and flat screen televisions have been installed in every hospital and residential care room.
The hospital has upgraded their cafeteria as well. Their meals are now aviliable to the public for purchase.
A secured dementia unit has been added on to the Residential Care Center. This renovation was completed within 30 days of Patterson becoming CEO.
Cleanliness is of utmost importance in the Residential Care center, as well.
This wards off that nursing home smell. It is important that the residents are in a safe and clean environment said Patterson.
The concern with cleanliness shows in their critics. The center is regularly monitored. Since 2013, their usual demerit count during reviews has decreased from 20 to only about six.
A buffet style line has been installed in the residential care dinning area.
Local barber, Marcus Steele and stylist, Linda Wheat visit the nursing home regularly to groom the residents. A salon and barber area has been added on to the residential care center to accommodate their services. This area includes shampoo bowl, styling chairs, hair dryers and everything needed to keep the residents feeling and looking their best.
The clinic is receiving a makeover, as well.  The roof is currently being redone.
Over the past few years the Greene County Health System has seen some major improvements, all with the community in mind.

Greenetrack sets up guarantee fund to assist Greene County Health System with payroll


Pictured L to R: Greenetrack Boardmember Toice Goodson, Sr., Greenetrack
 CEO Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, Jr., GCHS boardmember John Zippert,  GCHS
boardmember Shirley Isaac  and Greenetrack Boardmember Jimmy Pasteur

At a press conference on Friday morning at Greenetrack, Greenetrack CEO, Luther ‘Nat’ Winn Jr. and several board members presented the Greene County Health System (GCHS) with two checks totaling $150,000. These funds will be used to establish a guarantee fund in the Merchants and Farmers Bank to insure that the GCHS can meet its bi-weekly payroll, even when payments from Medicaid, Medicare and other health payers are delayed. The GCHS has 200 full and part-time employees.

The Greene County Health System, which includes the Hospital, Residential Care Center (nursing home) Physicians Clinic, Home Health Services, Rehabilitation Services and other health care benefits was represented at the presentation by Board members – Shirley Isaac and John Zippert. GCHS board members thanked the officials of Greenetrack for their concern and support.
In early April, according to Elmore Patterson, GCHS CEO, the health system experienced some difficulties in meeting a payroll because its Medicaid payments were delayed until later in the month. GCHS board members and Medicaid itself made loans and advances to assure that the payroll was met.
Luther Winn Jr., CEO of Greenetrack learned of these problems and agreed to assist by placing funds in a guarantee account to assure that the payroll could be met on a timely basis.
Luther Winn, Jr., CEO of Greenetrack and a member of the Greene County Industrial Authority, felt compelled to step in and assist.  “Greenetrack is committed to the Greene County community. As in the past, we have done what we could to improve the quality of life for every resident here,” said Winn, “and we cannot afford to lose our hospital.”  Winn went on to say that the Industrial Authority actively seeks new businesses for the area and without a hospital, he fears that businesses definitely will not consider coming to Greene County.
Winn informed the GCHS that Greenetrack was receiving $75,641.07, mostly in coins, back from the State of Alabama, in connection with litigation concerning the first raid on Greenetrack in 2010. These funds were awarded back to Greenetrack by Special Circuit Judge Houston Brown, in a summary judgment on February 3, 2016, in a hearing in Greene County. The case also involves over 800 electronic bingo machines seized by the state in the same raid.
The coins were in Greenetrack’s vault but the State of Alabama, who seized them, could not prove that these funds were derived from illegal gambling activities and thus agreed to return them.
Greenetrack’s Board of Directors agreed to match the State’s funds with an additional $75,000 to create a $150,000 guarantee collateral fund in Merchant and Farmers Bank to back-up the GCHS’s payroll account. If the GCHS has to draw upon this account to support payroll, it will have to replace the funds before drawing on the account again. “This will insure that the GCHS’s employees will never miss a paycheck,” said Winn.
Shirley Isaac of Forkland and GCHS Board member said  “ We are grateful to Mr. Winn and Greenetrack for their support and confidence in the hospital, nursing home and other services. This will surely help us to meet our responsibilities to our hardworking and dedicated staff.”
John Zippert, another GCHS Board member said, “ We appreciate what Mr. Winn and Greenetrack have done to help the GCHS but it is up to us as citizens of Greene County to do our part and use the facilities, health personnel and services available at the hospital, residential care center and physicians clinic.”
“We have 20 beds in the hospital, 70 beds in the nursing home, 3 doctors and 2 nurse practitioners at the clinic, a full lab, new X-ray machine, women’s health center with mammography, physical, occupational and speech therapy services, home health services and many other health services at our facilities. There is no reason to go to Tuscaloosa, Demopolis or elsewhere for medical and health services unless you are referred by GCHS. If we don’t use our facilities and staff, we will surely lose them,” said Zippert.
Elmore Patterson, GCHS CEO said, “We welcome this support from Greenetrack. We hope that we will also secure some regular monthly funding from Sheriff Benison’s bingo rules which will help us meet the costs for serving so many people in the county who cannot afford healthcare and those with Medicare and Medicaid whose reimbursements do not meet the full cost of providing care.”

GCHS Greene Team honors volunteers at luncheon

Greene Coats


The Greene Team, local volunteers who devote time and treasure to the Greene County Health System, recognized their members’ contributions at an Annual Volunteers Luncheon held Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at Ruby’s in Eutaw. The luncheon featured presentations on Domestic Violence Awareness by Sheriff Jonathan Benison and Deputy Sheriff Lt. Jeremy Rancher.
The Greene Team was organized in 2010 and currently has 39 active members who contributed 2,766.5 volunteer hours to the GCHS from October 2015 to date.In addition to serving as receptionists and advocates for positive community relations, the Greene Team also raises funds for special projects to benefit the Greene County Health Systems, including purchasing visitors’ sleeping cots and TV’s for hospital rooms, personal items for residents of the nursing home and more. The Greene Team volunteers are local individuals, mainly retirees, who choose to give more to their community through the GCHS.
Mrs. Jeanetta Hall serves as president and Mrs. Melruth Carter as secretary. Mrs. Geraldine Walton was mistress of ceremony at the luncheon