With new building complete, what is to become of old hospital?

PICAYUNE — Now that the new Highland Community Hospital building has been completed, some Picayune residents may wonder what will become of the old location.

Originally named Crosby Memorial Hospital, the site on Goodyear Boulevard was constructed by L.O. Crosby around 1955, said former Crosby Memorial Hospital Board member Jo Woods.

Picayune only had a medical clinic to meet the community’s medical needs prior to construction of the hospital on Goodyear Boulevard, Woods said.

The hospital was initially run by a board consisting of community members and doctors, foregoing any involvement with local government, Woods said. During those early years, the nonprofit nature of the hospital did not allow doctors to be paid. Instead they were provided with housing or educational financial assistance.

By the ’90s, consideration to sell the certificate of need was on the table due to financial concerns, but state laws concerning the nonprofit nature of the hospital forced the board to split into two separate entities, the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation and the Southern Regional Corporation, before it could be sold, said Southern Regional Corporation board president Ted Musgrove.

Former Crosby Memorial Hospital board member Dr. Jack Watson said the LPRVF was set up to manage the money from the sale, while SRC became landlords of the facility.

After a bidding war ensued for that CON in 1997, New American took ownership of the operation of the hospital, at a cost of between $16 to $18 million, said Musgrove. The bulk of the funds, about $15.5 million, went to the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, which is used to provide grants to local organizations.

After only a year, changes to the way Medicare and Medicaid paid medical bills forced New American to go bankrupt, putting the CON for need for Crosby Memorial Hospital back up for sale. A collaboration of local doctors bought the CON in 1998.

Forrest General Hospital purchased the CON in May of 2006 and renamed the facility Highland Community Hospital and operated at the Goodyear Boulevard site until July of this year. The hospital then moved operations to the new facility off of U.S. Highway 11. Now that the building on Goodyear is vacant, many people wonder what will become of it.

Musgrove said a number of medical companies have expressed interest in purchasing the building and using it for various medical purposes, such as an outpatient clinic, mental health clinic, general health clinic and even an assisted living facility.

“We have high hopes that in the next couple of months we’ll have a number of people who are interested in buying the facility,” Musgrove said.

The facility on Goodyear is still being maintained by Highland Community Hospital, until ownership of the building reverts back to SRC. Musgrove hopes to have the building sold to a suitor by the end of this year.

Woods hopes the next owner of the building will be able to meet the remaining medical needs of the Picayune community while remaining suitable for the area, since a number of schools operate near or on Goodyear Boulevard.

Ownership of the Cornerstone on Canal Street also lies within SRC. SRC hopes to use the funds from the sale of the old hospital to renovate the Cornerstone. Cornerstone’s nonprofit status allows SRC to allow senior citizens into the physical fitness facility free of charge during special hours, Woods said.

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