JACKSON — Wednesday Madison County Chancery Court upheld the state Health Department’s August decision to deny St. Dominic Hospital’s Certificate of Need (CON) application for an expansion of its hospital into Madison County.
St. Dominic’s is studying the decision to determine its next steps, said Paul Arrington, the hospital’s vice president of business development.
Hospital officials have previously stated that if denied, they would appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed by the Chancery Court’s decision,” Arrington said. “We believe it allows a highly unfair and inconsistent decision by the state health department to stand which results in treating Madison County residents vastly different than Forrest County residents, where last year a similar hospital expansion was approved.”
In Forrest County, the Department and the same hearing officer ruled (and ultimately, affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court) in favor of Forrest General Hospital relocating 30 existing acute care beds from its main campus to a newly constructed freestanding hospital in Forrest County. Arrington said during the CON hearing for St. Dominic’s application, the hearing officer excluded discussion of any prior CON cases and precedents, such as the Forrest General decision. “That results in long-range implications for not consistently administering CON laws and regulations in Mississippi,” he said.
Health Management Associates, which owns the only hospital in Madison County, had opposed St. Dominic’s plan to relocate 71 beds from its Jackson campus to suburban Madison.
St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital submitted a CON application to the Health Department in December 2008, requesting that it be allowed to build a new facility where it could relocate some of its existing, licensed beds to Madison County.
A state hearing officer viewed the request as a new hospital build instead of a relocation of beds. The state Health Plan does not support building a new hospital in Madison County, which is in the same General Hospital Service Area (GHSA) as Hinds County.
HMA’s concern is that if St. Dominic’s moves in, it will steal private-pay patients, threatening its viability by leaving it with more patients insured by Medicaid, which pays less for services.
CON laws are constructed to combat such scenarios and prevent hospital over-building. Mississippi is one of 30 states nationwide that governs its healthcare industry via CON instead of leaving it up to the free market.
Madison County remains last in the state with the fewest number of acute care beds based on its population than any county with at least one hospital.
More than 85% of Madison County residents leave the county for hospital care, with 29 percent of those residents visit St. Dominic’s, according to data provided by the hospital.