An administrative hearing officer is recommending St. Dominic Hospital not be allowed to build a new, $121 million hospital in Madison County, where it would transfer 71 of its existing beds.
The recommendation from administrative law judge Cassandra B. Walter, which was released yesterday, says St. Dominic’s hasn’t justified its case for a certificate of need (CON) from the state Department of Health.
The Health Management Associates-owned Madison County Medical Center legally opposed St. Dominic’s plans and welcomed Thursday’s recommendation. HMA broke ground in September 2009 on a new $42 million facility building for its 67 beds off Nissan Parkway in Canton that will open Madison River Oaks next summer.
HMA does not want more competition in the area for fear that a new St. Dominic’s facility would take away its private-pay patients, leaving it with more patients insured by Medicaid, which offers lower reimbursements and is thus less friendly to a hospital’s bottom line.
St. Dominic’s argues that the new facility would comply with the state Health Plan based on the projected population growth in Madison County. Many of its patients already come from that area, the hospital also argued.
Hearings regarding the proposed facility were held in January and February of this year. Both hospital ran extensive advertising campaigns and encouraged their supporters to write letters or sign petitions that would be relayed to the Health Department, as public opinion is taken into consideration by the department.
The next step in the hospital’s review process is a final ruling from State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier.
If St. Dominic’s were to appeal Currier’s decision, the case would go to Hinds County Chancery Court and ultimately to the state Supreme Court.
Mississippi is one of 30 states that regulates health care services through a CON process. State law requires CON approval for the establishment, relocation, or expansion of health care facilities. The process is design to help ensure the economic stability of community hospital and long-term nursing care services. Other states allow hospitals to build at their own risk.