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Pioneering hospital sees momentous year as it serves 17 counties

Forrest General still growing in the Pine Belt

Since its opening in 1952, Forrest General Hospital has pulled off a number of firsts and has made a name for itself in the Pine Belt for the quality of its care. The hospital has seen some momentous years, but a strong argument could be made that 2008 was the 512-bed hospital’s busiest and most ambitious.

Bill Oliver, CEO of Forrest General, said the hospital continues to adapt to the times. And, he added that 2009 might be every bit as busy as last year was.

“Our organization has been adapting to the changing economic times over the last couple of years with the uncertainty of Medicaid funding,” said Oliver. “This has helped us prepare for many of the economic challenges facing our nation today. Demand continues to grow in all of our service areas, including our heart and vascular, behavioral health, oncology, women and children’s, neurology and orthopedics, surgery, medicine and emergency/trauma service lines. This growth, along with the expertise of our excellent staff, makes me very confident that 2009 will be another strong year for our organization, which also contributes to the economic stability of our community.”

Some of the more important highlights for 2008 include:

• In March, the Mississippi State Department of Health approved a certificate of need from Forrest General to construct Highland Community Hospital in Picayune. A nearly $76-million project, Highland will be a 95-bed acute care facility located on Mississippi 11 that will replace the original hospital on Goodyear Boulevard that Forrest General purchased in 2006.

• In September, Forrest General entered into an agreement with Greene County Hospital in Leakesville under which Forrest General will accept Greene County’s patients needing higher care.

• Forrest General and the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation received a gift of land upon which the hospital plans to build the area’s first inpatient hospice home.

• In December, Forrest General launched Condition Help, or “Condition H,” designed to assist patients in case of an urgent medical concern.

Forrest General, indeed, shows no signs of slowing in 2009. Last month, Pine Grove Behavioral Health, a service of Forrest General, held a grand opening for its Outreach Office of Madison, which offers free and confidential assessments and referral sources to those in need of psychiatric or chemical dependency treatment.

Also last month, Forrest General cut the ribbon on its Wound Healing Center, another area first.

In bigger news yet, Forrest General completed an extensive renovation project to its Labor and Delivery area. Some four years in the making, the work included a new entrance and parking garage and new 36-bed Family Birthplace (2005 and 2006). The first phase of renovations to the Labor and Delivery area also began at this time, and wrapped up this past fall. The final phase completely renovated 12 rooms offering a modern décor, private showers, flat-screen TVs with DVD players, improved lighting and sleeper sofas.

The hospital is now turning its attention to its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Demolition of the old unit is complete, and construction of the new NICU began in late 2008. The project is scheduled for conclusion at the end of this year, and babies born beginning in January 2010 will benefit from more space and heightened technology.

“With our new NICU, as well as the other wonderful innovations that have been completed in our Family Birthplace and Labor and Delivery unit, the hospital’s goal is to provide an environment that feels more like a home and is focused on family-centered care, while also including state-of-the-art design and technology,” said Tangela Boutwell, director of women’s and children’s services at Forrest General.

The growth of Forrest General has been impressive. When it opened in 1952, it offered a mere 90 beds, 70 employees and 31 doctors. Today counting more than 500 beds, the level II regional trauma hospital employs more than 3,600 workers and has 250-plus physicians.

Forrest General is actually more than just a hospital. It also operates Pine Grove and its 88 beds and the 24-bed rehabilitation unit called Rehab Resource, and houses Regency Hospital Company, a 33-bed long-term acute care facility.

In addition Forrest General offers all levels of care for critical access care hospitals in a 17-county service area.

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

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