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Forrest General-Crosby deal changes healthcare landscape

Hattiesburg and Picayune — Healthcare in South Mississippi saw a significant event last May. Officials with Forrest and Pearl River counties as well as Forrest General Hospital of Hattiesburg and Crosby Memorial Hospital of Picayune announced that Forrest General had acquired Crosby Memorial. Moreover, Forrest General unveiled plans to build an entirely new Picayune hospital called Highland Community Hospital.

Accessible, top-quality healthcare services is an important component in economic and community development, and officials from both counties are excited about what the merger means to both existing residents and businesses as well as prospective ones.

Billy Hudson, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, said, “Forrest General Hospital serves 17 counties in South Mississippi. One of those counties is Pearl River, and like Forrest County, Pearl River County is growing. With that growth comes the need for more modern hospital facilities that are easily accessible to residents. I am pleased… that Forrest County General Hospital is acquiring Crosby Memorial Hospital, located in Picayune on Goodyear Boulevard, for the purpose of building a new hospital to serve the residents of South Pearl River County.”

“We are pleased to see Forrest General Hospital coming to Picayune,” said Danny Wise, president of the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors. “Forrest General has always been the hospital of choice, and we’re really excited about the potential economic growth from Forrest General’s investment. We will do everything possible to help Forrest General build a new hospital in Picayune and support the growth of the medical community.”
Matching missions

At first glance, Forrest General and Crosby may seem quite dissimilar. Forrest General operates one of the largest acute care facilities in Mississippi, as well as other services and facilities, all in the bustling metropolitan statistical area of Hattiesburg. Crosby, established in 1954, is a 95-bed full-service acute care hospital operating in the small community of Picayune.

However, Picayune and Pearl River County is seeing unparalleled growth, and the two hospitals share one thing — a common mission. Crosby’ mission statement reads, “Committed to excellence through personalized quality care and service.” Forrest General’s mission is, “To provide high-quality health services accessible and available to residents of South Mississippi.” According to Forrest General spokesperson Millie Swan, this commonality of purpose is exactly what led Forrest General to acquire Crosby.

Swan said, “Forrest General has always been the hub of advanced healthcare in South Mississippi, and now we have the opportunity to add another spoke to the hub. Picayune is a fast-growing area, and by acquiring Crosby Memorial Hospital, now called Highland Community Hospital, Forrest General will help better ensure quality primary, secondary and tertiary care for the residents of Pearl River County.”
Forrest General’s initial investment in Crosby is $5.5 million. However, the new hospital is expected to ring in at $47 million. Forrest General said it intends to complete construction of the new Highland Community Hospital within three to five years.

“We hope to break ground on a new, 95- to 100-bed hospital as soon as possible once due diligence is complete and the appropriate permits are secured. We are looking at several land options and speaking with several landowners regarding location,” Swan said.

While the new hospital will encompass approximately the same number of beds as Crosby, additional healthcare services are planned even before the new Highland Community facility is in operation. Forrest General said it intends to recruit additional physicians to the community to provide an opportunity for hospital as well as community growth, and it expects to work with management and physicians to introduce new services in the existing facility that can transfer to the new hospital.

In addition to new jobs, Highland Community is expected to boost the community by keeping local healthcare dollars at home. Previously, residents often had to drive across the Pearl River to Louisiana for services not offered at Crosby. Now, they can take advantage of quality healthcare services minus the “windshield time.”

Track record of growth

Forrest General has long been an icon of the Hattiesburg and South Mississippi area. Founded in 1952, it has grown with the area. Its 400-bed acute care facility, the sixth-largest hospital in Mississippi and the largest outside the metropolitan Jackson area, is a familiar landmark on U.S. 49. (The hospital actually holds a total of 512 beds, and is leasing 33 beds for long-term acute care to Regency Hospital.)

However, Forrest General is more than just one hospital. It also owns and operates the 88-bed chemical dependency and psychiatric unit called Pine Grove, the 24-bed Rehabilitation Services and Forrest General Home Care and Hospice. It also currently manages another hospital outside Forrest County. Thus, Forrest General is an old hand at operating multiple, separate facilities.

FGH president Bill Oliver said, “Operating another hospital is nothing new for Forrest General. We’ve operated the Pine Grove Behavioral Health hospital for many years, and we’ve also managed Walthall County Hospital in Tylertown for many years.”

Last year and the first part of 2006 have been busy times at Forrest General. Some milestones and recognition achieved just since last summer include: request for a certificate of need to purchase a picture archiving and communications system; implementation of South Mississippi’s first palliative care program; feature on The Learning Channel on Pine Grove Behavioral Health; re-accreditation as a provider of continuing medical education for physicians as well as from the American Association for Respiratory Care; agreement to become a supporting/receiving hospital for healthcare facilities in four South Mississippi counties; purchase of a new magnetic resonance imaging scanner and other new radiological technology; inclusion in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s landmark 100,000 Lives campaign; winning the 2006 VHA Leadership Award for Clinical Excellence; and, earning designation as a UnitedHealth Premium cardiac specialty center, another South Mississippi first.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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