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Riley Hospital celebrates 75 years of healthcare

Meridian — Things were very different when the 10-bed Riley Hospital opened here in 1930. The founder, Dr. Franklin Riley, would not recognize the large, modern 180-bed healthcare facility with 174 staff physicians, 31 specialties offered and 550 employees. He would, however, find the same dedication and commitment to providing quality healthcare to East Mississippi and West Alabama that are still the hallmarks of this hospital.

The fully accredited facility, now owned and operated by Health Management Associates of Naples, Fla., is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

“Riley Hospital, since its inception 75 years ago, has been a tremendous asset to the local community,” said Steve Harris, M.D., president of the board of trustees. “Its strength lies mainly in its employees who have given compassionate care for decades.

“As a physician working in the hospital, there is a tremendous sense of community and caring that goes much further than just a ‘job.’ It’s like a large extended family. It would be impossible for patients using this facility not to feel the same way.”

Dr. Riley, a native of Tupelo, set up practice in Meridian in 1922 as the state’s first full-time pediatrician. A few years later, he founded the small hospital that has grown to the acute care medical complex of today.

Riley Hospital is one of three hospitals within a few blocks in Meridian. Amy Boutwell, director of human resources and marketing, says each one has its own niche. “There are things we all do well,” she said. “At Riley Hospital, we provide excellent patient care. That’s one of the best things that makes us special and our patient surveys are good. Our focus is on the best patient care, not on being the largest in town.”

Boutwell said the hospital has a good local board that’s involved in the community and an excellent team of employees who keep things going in a family atmosphere.

The hospital has an emergency room, which Boutwell says is a service they should provide because it is the hospital’s front door. In October 1999, the Tom C. Maynor Rehabilitation Center opened as the area’s only comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation unit. This center provides 24-hour care to patients including physical, occupational and speech therapy offering a team of physicians, nurses and therapist who are trained to treat stroke patients.

Riley Hospital has continued to grow. In recent years, a wound healing center with two hyperbaric chambers and a pain management center were opened. The most recent new service added was the WomanCare Birth Place. “It’s something we brag on because it has beautiful birthing suites so parents don’t miss out on their baby’s first moments,” Boutwell said. “We also have the four-dimensional ultra sound that is very realistic and special for expectant parents.”

The hospital has changed quite a bit physically. The original building was torn down and that space is now a parking lot. “We have a good problem — we’re out of space,” Boutwell said. “We received our certificate of need from the state and are working now to build a new medical office building.”

Medical specialties available at Riley Hospital include anesthesiology, cardiology, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular surgery, child psychiatry, dental surgery, dermatology, emergency medicine, family practice, gastroenterology, general surgery, internal medicine, nephrology, neurology, neurosurgery, obstetrics/gynecology and ophthalmology.

Also, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, pain management, pathology, pediatric dentistry, pediatrics, plastic surgery, psychiatry, pulmonary disease, radiation oncology, radiology, rheumatology and urology.

The total number of patient discharges in 2004 was 4,390.

The hospital serves as a community health resource by providing health fairs throughout the year, educational classes, ongoing support groups and special programs.

“As the sole sponsor of the customer service booth at the mall, they allow us to have health fairs there,” Boutwell said. “This fall we will have a women’s health fair.”
Other popular programs include the lunch and learn series on timely healthcare topics, birthing classes for new parents, breastfeeding classes, infant CPR classes and the stroke support group.

The hospital is especially proud of its Play Therapy program, designed to reduce children’s fear of hospitals. Under the direction of a registered nurse, children dress in surgical attire and pretend to operate on a doll whose name is Baby Beth. The community education nurse and Riley Bear also take this program to first grade students at local elementary schools.

“We also hold Teddy Bear Clinics for local kindergartens and talk to children on their terms,” she said. “We have 100 kids at a time and they love it.”

With a mission to provide safe, cost-effective, high-quality healthcare to the area, Riley Hospital looks forward to the next 75 years. Recognized as a healthcare leader in Mississippi, the hospital plans to continue to grow with technology and innovation based on its heritage of trust and integrity.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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