Cooper Green Mercy Health System Executive Director Resigns

Armika Berkley, executive director of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, makes a point during the Jefferson County Commission’s committee meeting on Jan. 23, 2018. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Less than a week after the Jefferson County Commission hired a deputy director at Cooper Green Mercy Health System, Executive Director Armika Berkley today resigned from her position. Her last day is Aug. 16.

Efforts to reach Berkley were unsuccessful.

County manager Tony Petelos acknowledged receipt of the letter and said Berkley’s resignation has been accepted. He said the resignation was unanticipated.

“She’s just moving on,” Petelos told BirminghamWatch. “She’s been with us over two years now. We were very fortunate to have her during this period of time.

“It’s been difficult at Cooper Green over the past several years with the work that’s going on and the lack of staff that we have,” he said. “We’ve lost some key positions over there.”

Jefferson County continues to talk with leaders at UAB about creating a health care authority to administer health care for the county’s indigent residents. The final decision is expected by Oct. 31.

The commission recently approved rolling Berkley’s position to the authority, provided the authority gains final approval, and last week approved the hiring of Laura Hurst to be the deputy director at Cooper Green.

“It’s a coincidence,” Petelos said of hiring a deputy director, “but then again it’s going to work out because (Hurst) is going to be there a little over a month while Armika’s still working.”

The county manager said Hurst begins her job July 8. He said the county talked with UAB before making the hire.

“We’ve communicated that we needed to have someone over there to help because our deputy director left over a year ago,” he said. “Armika’s been there by herself. The contract (of the deputy director) allows the health care authority to assume that contract. That’s what will happen. And (Hurst) knows of the health care authority and all that. It’s not surprises there.”

In a letter addressed to deputy county manager Walter Jackson, Berkley cited the “challenging circumstances” under which she has worked in her 20 months leading the facility that administers health care for Jefferson County’s indigent population. Despite those challenges, Berkley said the facility had been able to:

  • Reverse the negative revenue trends significantly, by more than $8 million in 12 months.
  • Maintain residents’ access to ambulatory services.
  • During a period of no grant staff, write and be awarded grants totaling $3.4 million that afforded Cooper Green and the patients additional services in the form of an opioid clinic, behavioral health services, free mammograms and more.
  • Begin implementation of a new electronic health record system conservatively projected to lead to a 35% increase in insured patient revenue annually.
  • Secure new lab management software that will lead to savings.
  • Secure a new contract with the lab services vendor that will reduce reference lab cost by 35%, resulting in a projected savings of $250,000 a year.
  • Develop a three- to five-year strategic plan.
  • Increase overall patient satisfaction with services offered by 20%.
  • Shift the payer mix of enrolled patients from less than 20% insured to 45%, which is expected to lead to a significant increase in patient revenue.

“All the accomplishments resulted during a period of hiring freezes and void of a deputy director,” Berkley wrote in her letter. “I am personally proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in a few short years under my leadership. My time with Jefferson County has afforded me unique experiences and relationships that I will carry with me.”