Laurel — South Central Regional Medical Center (SCRMC), which serves some 120,000 people in Jones, Wayne, Jasper and Smith counties, recently implemented the latest part of its continuing expansion as it purchased a 103,565-square-foot former Wal-Mart building.
A Super Wal-Mart opened four years ago south of this empty building on Mississippi 15 North (l6th Avenue) in Laurel.
The building purchased by the hospital is on 8.5 acres. According to the sales contract, no purchase amount can be disclosed.
“We have been looking for space for some time that will accommodate several non-clinical areas,” according to Doug Higgenbotham, SCRMC’s executive director. “By moving these areas off-site, we can make room for additional clinical services within the medical center.”
Higgenbotham indicated that the hospital is in the process of working with an architect to develop a master building plan for, “Maximum utilization of space for short term and long term.”
These plans include moving several business services departments to the former Wal-Mart building, including the accounting department, patient accounting department and physician billing services.
Higgenbotham added that the plans also included a health education center. SCRMC is now leasing space in Sawmill Square Mall for an education center and, when relocated to its permanent location in the new building, it will be expanded.
Mike Foil of Foil-Wyatt Architects, Jackson, is the architect now working with SCRMC. Foil is well-known in the area, having worked on hospital projects in the past, as well as on Jones County Junior College’s Advanced Training Technology Center in Ellisville’s Howard Tech Park.
In addition, the hospital may move health information scanning and transcription services to the facility, as well as its hospice program.
Soon after the purchase, the Jones County Board of Supervisors approved a loan — up to $8 million — from BancorpSouth to SCRMC. The supervisors stated that the loan would be used for, “Improvements to and expansion of the emergency room, surgery suites and various hospital rooms and/or construction of a new business services building.”
A hospital spokesperson said that part of the loan will be used for renovation of the Wal-Mart building.
When the renovation is completed and the non-clinical services move to the new facility, “We’ll look at existing services and develop those that need to be expanded into the vacant hospital space,” according to associate executive director/community services Linda Gavin.
Starting time for the renovation depends on the architect’s plans, Gavin said.
The hospital, which opened in 1952, has 285 beds and some 350,000 square feet.
“SCRMC is the second largest employer in Jones County,” Higgenbotham said. “Today, more than 1,700 employees work at South Central, and the vast majority of them live in Jones County.”
Higgenbotham indicated that the annual payroll, including employee benefits, “Is in excess of $50 million.”
Another part of SCRMC’s expansion of services, occurred a few months before purchase of the Wal-Mart building when the hospital and 10 gastrointestinal and surgeons opened the Laurel Surgery and Endoscopy Center, LLC. The facility is a multi-speciality ambulatory surgical center.
Some 70% of all surgery is now performed in an outpatient setting.
The center is equipped with the latest technology for performing general surgery, opthamology, gynecology, orthopaedic, gastrointestinal, ear, nose and throat and pain management procedures.
The $6-million facility has four surgical suites and three procedure rooms.
“The group of physicians associated with this project has worked together in partnership with South Central Regional Medical Center to ensure that the entire Laurel community will be served by the latest innovations in out-patient care,” according to Dr. Stephen P. Johnson, the center’s chairman of the board of directors.
One of SCRMC’s most ambitious projects was the founding of the Women’s Place and the three-phase overhaul, begun in 1997, which is now complete.
In phase one, the postpartum rooms were renovated and expanded. The rooms have wood-grained flooring, maple and cherry furnishings and coordinating draperies. Every room has a TV and VCR, wardrobe, swivel rocker, bedside table and a sofa that converts into a bed for visitors.
The large bathrooms are finished in marble and tile and include vanity, sitz bath and shower.
Phase two featured new labor and delivery areas with large labor, delivery and recovery rooms that include private bath, monitoring system and infant warmer. A decorative framed print hides the medical gases, which are in a recess at the head of the bed.
And phase three included construction of a new nursery.
In 1995, SCRMC expanded its services out of Laurel when it opened the Ellisville Medical Clinic (seven miles south of Laurel, in Jones County). Full-time nurse-practitioners staff the Ellisville clinic and treat such acute care problems as stomach virus, colds and minor injuries and chronic conditions, including diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.
The clinic also provides radiology and lab services and work-related physicals, sports physicals and physicals for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Patients who need to be hospitalized are examined by Laurel Family Clinic physicians, who also provide oversight for the clinic.
Though the new SCRMC facility won’t pay taxes in the renovated Wal-Mart location, Andy Dial, president of the Jones County Board of Supervisors, said, “The medical center needed a place to grow. With the level and class of jobs they have, they are doing economic development in a different way.”
F. Paulette Boone, community affairs specialist for Laurel Mayor Susan Vincent, said that the mayor is, “Committed to working with the hospital in developing the property and assisting in any way we can.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at email@example.com.