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Decision all that remains from hospital hearings

State Health Department hearings regarding a proposed $121 million St. Dominic Hospital Madison Campus concluded Feb. 25 with testimony from the public. Proceedings began on Feb. 4.

Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA), owner of the River Oaks Healthcare network of five Jackson metro area facilities, is legally opposing the St. Dominic’s facility. HMA leases the 67-bed Madison County Medical Center in Canton, which is currently the only hospital serving Madison County. The company argues that according to population numbers and the formula established by the state Health Department, Madison County cannot support two hospitals.

HMA broke ground in September on a new building for the hospital off Nissan Parkway in Canton. The new $42 million facility will be named Madison River Oaks Hospital.

HMA took over Madison County Medical Center (MCMC) – then called Madison General – in 2002 when it was run by the county and was $9 million in debt. It currently operates in its original building built in 1965.

Jennifer Hicks, head of OBGYN services at MCMC, said she remembers having to move patients from the labor room up to the second floor on stretchers before HMA took over the county hospital and updated the facility.

“This is not a civil war. This is not the northern part of the county versus the southern part of the county… We at Madison River Oaks are ready to deliver,” she said.

Many are concerned that if St. Dominic’s facility is built, Madison River Oaks will end up with Medicare and Medicaid patients from the north end of the county, and St. Dominic’s will receive patients with commercial insurance from the City of Madison in the south end of the county, which is a higher-income area. Physicians’ medical reimbursements for all procedures are typically lower with Medicare and Medicaid than with private insurance carriers. Doctors and hospitals make more profit from privately insured patients.

A spokesperson for the Health Department has said it will be at least four months before a decision is made on whether St. Dominic’s will receive a Certificate of Need (CON) from the state to relocate 71 of its Hinds County beds to a new facility that it would build in Madison County.

If approved, St. Dominic’s facility will be located off Interstate 55 on Galleria Parkway in the southern part of Madison County.

Mississippi is one of 30 states that regulates healthcare services through a CON process. State law requires CON approval for the establishment, relocation, or expansion of healthcare 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.

Cassandra Walter, administrative hearing officer for the Health Department, will decide whether to uphold the staff’s recommendation or grant St. Dominic’s CON. Don Eicher, director of the department’s policy and planning division, has said that according to the 2009 state Health Plan, Madison County has more than enough beds to serve its population.

St. Dominic’s bases its CON request on Madison’s growth rate. State population projections show that Madison County currently has more than 89,000 residents and will have more than 128,000 residents by 2025, a 43 percent increase.

Madison County currently has .75 beds per 1,000 residents. Without additional beds added, it will have only .52 beds per 1,000 residents by 2025, according to population predictions.

By comparison, Rankin County with a population of more than 142,000 has 2.49 beds per 1,000 residents.

Leroy Walker, a Jackson resident who owns the McDonald’s franchise in Canton, testified that he currently serves on the St. Dominic’s board and favors the new build because it would provide more access to healthcare and enable economic development.

HMA attorney Thomas Kirkland Jr. asked Walker whether he would still support St. Dominic’s new facility if he knew it would have an adverse affect on HMA’s Madison River Oaks facility that is under construction.

Walker said his McDonald’s faced competition from Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and other franchises daily and that he favored free enterprise.


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