Plans for new hospital unveiled

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Officials from Highland Community and Forrest General hospitals released plans on Monday for a new facility to be built off of U.S. 11 North in Picayune.

“This has been a real challenge for us. … We hope to have it done by 2010,” said Highland administrator Steve Grimm.

Forrest General President Bill Oliver said construction on the medical offices for the facility will begin during the first part of 2008 with a completion date of late 2008 or early 2009. Forrest General Hospital of Hattiesburg purchased the old Crosby Hospital in 2006.

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Construction on the first of three phases for the main hospital will begin when the Certificate of Need is obtained from the Mississippi Department of Health.

“We filed for the certificate of need on Dec. 1 of this year. We hope to have a decision by April 1, 2008. We have many letters of support from local and state government officials,” said Oliver.

Oliver said the first phase of the new facility will have 46 beds, with two more phases planned to follow as needed.

“Highland currently runs with approximately 20 inpatient beds filled per day, and is currently licensed for 95. … This first phase is adequate for the community right now, but we always need space and room to grow,” Oliver said. “We’re anticipating that we should double our capacity within three years of construction completion.”

“The second and third phases will be census-driven. If we stay full after the first phase, then we will start the next phase, and so on. … The total cost of all three phases will be around $75 million,” said Grimm.

The hospital will be constructed on 31 acres just off U.S. 11 North, near the post office extension. Of the 31 acres, 20 were donated by Picayune developer Carle Cooper.

“I thought it was a good location. It’s convenient to Highway 11, Highway 43, and Interstate 59…. I thought it would fill out the community nicely,” Cooper said.

A four-lane road will be built by the developer to connect Interstate 10 exit 6 and the hospital. The proposed name for the road is Highland Boulevard.

Picayune Mayor Greg Mitchell said the new facility is just what Picayune and Pearl River County need.

“This is a great day for the City of Picayune. For several years, we have lacked for a good, state-of-the art facility. We have a good one, built in 1954, but it has outlasted its time … . This facility will be the result of one common goal, one common interest which is to provide the best possible medical facilities for the city … . This is a great early Christmas present for the city of Picayune and for Pearl River County,” Mitchell said.

“This is a great moment for the city and all the hospital employees,” said Grimm. “But the most important thing is that while we are building a brand-new, beautiful facility, the heart of the hospital, the employees, will just be transferring over.”

“We will continue to provide and receive excellent staff, and we will have medical educational affiliations with numerous local colleges and universities such as Pearl River Community College, University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College as well as many others,” Oliver said.

“I feel like I’m in that ‘Rocky’ movie. You know, I should be saying, ‘Yo, Adrian! We did it!’” Grimm said.

Crosby Memorial Hospital, the predecessor to Highland, was established in 1954 and changed ownership several times in the earlier part of this decade before the purchase by Forrest General Hospital of Hattiesburg in May of 2006 that resulted in the name change.

The current building on Goodyear Boulevard has been considered outdated for many years, but the previous owners did not have the funds to build a replacement facility.

In January of this year, Highland General was named “Hospital of the Year, Less than 100 Beds” as part of the Mississippi Nightingale Awards, which were hosted by the Mississippi Nurses Association and the Mississippi Nurses Foundation.

According to a release from Highland, the award “recognizes a hospital, which contributes to its community and the nursing profession by recognizing RNs, involving nurses in decision-making, creating community support for nursing, and supporting the professional development of its nursing staff.”