Burn center proposal clears one chamber of Miss. Legislature

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lawmakers are pushing forward with a plan to create what would be the state’s only burn unit, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The House approved a bill Tuesday that would give UMC $10 million to finish a floor of the critical care unit to be used for burn treatment. The bill also would give UMC money each year to run the center, which likely would treat large numbers of uninsured patients.

The bill was held on a procedural move, and there could be more House debate before the plan goes to the Senate.

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Even if the proposal clears both chambers of the Legislature and is signed into law by the governor, it could be more than 18 months before a unit might open, officials said.

The Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Center in Greenville, which had been the state’s only burn unit, closed in mid-2005 because of budget and staffing shortfalls. It had been open 33 years.

Since then, Mississippi burn victims have been sent to other states for treatment. Among them were two women and three children who were sent to Georgia for treatment after being severely burned when a gas leak triggered an explosion at a Lee County home Dec. 5. One of the victims, 3-year-old Natetreuna Hunt, died Dec. 23.

Dr. Dan Jones, the head of UMC, told a House committee last week that UMC would welcome a burn center if it’s properly funded. The hospital already handles a large number of uninsured patients.

The effort to establish a burn unit at UMC has picked up a celebrity endorsement from New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who has been working with the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Association to gather information about what it would cost to establish and operate a burn center in the state.

The bill is House Bill 567.