St. Dominic argues against Canton hospital move before Appeals Court

Published 3:32 pm Thursday, January 25, 2007

The attorney for St. Dominic Health Systems argued Tuesday that a Florida company has failed to prove it needs to build a new hospital in Madison County.

In October 2005, State Health Officer Dr. Brian Amy approved the relocation of Madison County Medical Center from Mississippi 16 East to near the Nissan plant along Interstate 55.

Health Management Associates of Naples, Fla., plans a $42 million facility across from the Nissan auto plant. HMA has a 40-year lease with the county to operate the Madison County Medical Center.

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St. Dominic Health Systems, which owns St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital, appealed the decision to Hinds County Chancery Court. Chancellor William Singletary ruled for HMA this past February. St. Dominic appealed again.

In arguments Tuesday before the state Court of Appeals, St. Dominic attorney Ed Brunini Jr. of Jackson said HMA admitted it could spend less money — $15 million to $20 million — by renovating at the current location.

Brunini said one of the considerations in issuing a certificate of need, or CON, is cost containment.

“You don’t authorize them to build wherever they want to and become the sole provider in Madison County. There is no real impediment to them building or renovating a hospital,” Brunini said.

HMA attorney Tom Kirkland of Ridgeland said the Canton hospital was built in 1965, has trouble attracting doctors and can’t provide some services — such as outpatient care — from the current location.

“It is a hospital that is very much outdated,” Kirkland said. “The evidence is overwhelming that the hospital needs to be replaced.”

He said the renovation to which Brunini referred was for a scaled back medical center — from 67 to 22 beds — with fewer services than are now provided.

Kirkland said St. Dominic has not shown there would be any adverse impact on its operations.

St. Dominic and HMA have a long history of legal battles over health care in central Mississippi.

In September 2005, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Amy’s denial of St. Dominic’s plans for a $35 million acute-care hospital on the grounds of St. Catherine’s Village in Madison. That proposal was opposed by HMA.

The two hospital companies clashed in previous years over HMA’s construction of a new hospital in north Jackson before the new facility was approved by the state. A CON for the new facility was ultimately denied and the building was closed.

The companies also fought over an earlier HMA proposal to move the Canton beds to the facility in north Jackson.

HMA owns Central Mississippi Medical Center, River Oaks Hospital and Women’s Hospital, all in Jackson.

Appeals Judge Joseph Lee, a member of the panel hearing the case Tuesday, said in his view, HMA was relocating not building a new hospital.

“This is not for a new facility in that it would be duplication. It is to relocate a facility that would be closed,” Lee said.

Brunini said the HMA plan is an expansion of existing service.

“It is a cost containment issue,” Brunini said. “If they can renovate for $20 million, why do they want to build a $40 million hospital across town?”

To control costs, avoid duplication of services and protect existing health care providers from competition, states control the building of hospitals and other major health care facilities through the issuance of CONs.

The process controls the number of hospitals and other medical institutions throughout a state. Officials favoring the rules say they promote economic efficiency.