Senate returns burn center bill to the House

Published 11:13 pm Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Senate has passed a slightly different version of a bill that could lead to the establishment of a burn center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Senators on Thursday changed the House-passed bill. Instead of ordering the medical center to create the burn unit, the new version says the medical center “may” be established.

The Senate also changed language that would have provided $10 million to construct the center.

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The Senate version authorizes lawmakers to appropriate funds only if the private sector or local and federal government provides at least 50 percent of the construction costs and 50 percent of the annual operating funds.

The bill goes back to the House for more work.

“I don’t know if that’s a possibility,” said state Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.

Holland, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, said he expects later talks between the two houses will resolve differences.

Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said UMC officials felt confident they could raise half the construction and operating funds through private sources.

If that’s true, he said, “then it’s our intention as a Legislature to appropriate the other half of construction costs and operation costs for 10 years.”

The bill also gives local governments the authority to make contributions, and specifically for counties to make contributions and levy a 1-mill tax.

The 16-bed complex would cost between $5 million and $6 million annually to operate, said Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, the Appropriations Committee chairman.

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.

The bill is House Bill 567.