Highland finds new land

Published 1:04 am Sunday, February 11, 2007

Picayune and the surrounding area will have a new hospital, in about five years.

Currently Highland Community Hospital is losing about 30 to 40 percent of the local medical admissions to hospitals in surrounding cities, such as Slidell, La., said Highland Community Hospital Administrator Steve Grimm. Grimm said the new hospital facility slated to be built within five years will aim to get about half of that missing percentage back, maybe more.

The main component that makes up a good hospital is not the facility but the staff, however those traveling prospective patients across state lines do not see it that way.

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“Unfortunately newer is better, what is important is the heart of the hospital and that is our employees and that is what is moving with us,” Grimm said. “It’s a heart transplant, we’re real proud of these professionals.”

Another thing that Highland Community currently has that is moving to the new location is the availability of private rooms, which Slidell hospitals can not promise, Grimm said.

The recently transition of ownership at Highland Community Hospital allows them to accept Tricare and Louisiana State Group benefits so now retired military personnel can receive medical care locally, instead of having to drive, Grimm said. An ongoing benefit that has always been at the hospital, even when it was called Crosby Memorial, was the ability to handle out-patient exams. Even though a doctor may recommend a patient travel to have those exams conducted, they can be done at Highland, Grimm said.

Highland also is capable of stabilizing trauma situations before taking that 35 minute helicopter ride to Forrest General Hospital.

When construction for the new facility begins there will be three phases, but before construction can begin the planning process needs to be completed, Grimm said.

Forrest General Support Services vice president John Flock said the specifics of the land acquisition are still being ironed out. The whole project will be conducted in three phases, the first phase is projected to cost about $37 million and will put about 46 beds in an 150,000 square foot building. The second phase will cost about $5 million and will add about 32 more beds where phase three will add the remaining 13 beds and is projected to coast about $14 to $15 million for a total of about 96 beds, Flock said. Square footage for the last two phases has not been determined yet, Flock said.

Those projections are all tentative since the new facility is still in the planning stages. As the planning ensues there may be changes and adjustments. Some of those adjustments will meet the needs of certain departments.

“You don’t put the emergency room that far from radiology because they use that so much,” Flock said.

A local unnamed developer has offered to donate 20 acres for the new facility and has also given the option to purchase an additional 15 adjacent acres. Flock said the hospital is awaiting an appraisal on that additional 15 acres before they can continue with the purchase. To date a site for the new facility has not been set but the proposed site for the new hospital is on U.S. next to the mail distribution facility in Picayune, or where residents pick up packages that they were not home to sign for.

The plan is to build the new hospital and a medical office building in the same acreage by developer Marshall Erdman and Associates. Erdman will own the medical office while the hospital will own their facility, Flock said. Use of this developer will save the hospital money since the company is capable of handling multiple aspects of the design and building process in house, Flock said.

A tentative start date will be released after all of the details have been worked out.

According to an article in the Hattiesburg American the unnamed local developer plans to construct housing developments next to the land they have offered to the hospital.

Tentative ideas for the new hospital will be shown to the community and employees where they can help to pick out what the new hospital will look like. The community can also help to fund the new hospital by participating in a fund raisers that will take place soon. A date has not been set on the plan showing or the fund raiser yet.

“It’s important to get the community involved that way they know it is their hospital, it always has been,” Grimm said.

Currently the hospital employs about 250 employees and are looking to add about 15 new specialist physicians. One new physician is a new OB GYN, Dr. Jean Pierre, who has been on staff for a short time now.

Soon an Urgent Care facility will open near the U.S. 11 location of Winn-Dixie that could help take some pressure off of Highland’s emergency room. Dr. John Barton was unavailable for comment on when the facility will open.