St. Dominic Health Services Inc. folding MEA clinics into practice

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Published: July 10,2006

Since its acquisition of Ridgeland-based MEA Clinics March 31, St. Dominic Health Services Inc. has been blending the Jackson area medical clinics into its practice.

“MEA has been and will continue to be a collaborative partner in healthcare, treating the patient for urgent medical needs and assisting them and finding a specialist when they require one,” said Sapna Michael, a spokesperson for St. Dominic Health Services.

A group of physicians who saw the need for an after-hours clinic founded MEA Medical Clinics in 1979, establishing its first clinic in Pearl, followed by a second location on Ellis Avenue in South Jackson. Within a few years, MEA had 10 locations in the metro Jackson area markets of Madison, Byram, Clinton, Castlewoods and Richland, and in Laurel.

In 1998, primary care clinics were added to the group, with locations in Clinton and Ridgeland. When MEA opened the new Airport Road clinic in Jackson in December 2001, the Pearl Clinic on U.S. 80 was transformed into a full-time drug-testing center (DTC); another DTC was established in Tupelo.

Several years ago, St. Dominic had similar clinics called FirstCare, which have closed.

“Over the last two years, we’ve developed St. Dominic Medical Associates and as a part of that, we have Family Practice Associates, and we operate two clinics, one in Flowood, one in Madison,” explained Michael. “They’re equipped to do urgent care but tend to be more like your family doctor. They’re not quite the same as the MEA or FirstCare setup. They’re not really set up for an emergency. They can handle some urgent care but not like MEA.”

Talks began last fall concerning St. Dominic acquiring First Intermed Corporation, the entity that owns and operates MEA Medical Clinics for the metro area.

“Each year, thousands of area residents seek medical care in the MEA setting,” said Michael. “St. Dominic health services has long desired to extend its mission: to ensure the patient population of our community has the convenient and affordable access to primary care services. (The public) has made clear its needs and wants. St. Dominic Health Services Inc. provides diversified health care services to central Mississippi through a number of wholly owned subsidiaries. The MEA clinics are a significant addition to that St. Dominic family. The hospital is one of the major subsidiaries, of course.”

St. Dominic was established in 1946 when the Dominican Sisters came to Jackson from Springfield, Ill., to assume operation of the Jackson Infirmary. St. Dominic Jackson Memorial Hospital, a 571-bed acute care hospital recognized as one of the Southeast’s leading not-for-profit hospitals, is a subsidiary of St. Dominic Health Services Inc.

Michael said there are no plans to change the clinic’s name or to alter staffing. “There’s no reason to make any changes,” she emphasized. “MEA will continue to operate as it always has and first consideration for a hospital when needed is the patient’s choice and is likely based on their insurance and therefore it’s not a requirement to use St. Dominic’s.”

Shawn Lea, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Hospital Association, said the merger reflects a growing trend of hospitals nationwide — almost all of them include some outpatient diagnostic and treatment spaces — to open primary health clinics.

“Ease in continuity of care is one reason why,” said Lea. “Primary healthcare is widely recognized as the hub of an integrated health system, so access to care in a community is improved by ensuring that adequate primary care is available. Hospital-owned clinics can also help to ease overcrowding in emergency rooms. From a business standpoint, hospitals already have billing, coding and business office functions in place, so that is one less hurdle in opening or taking over a health clinic.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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