Methodist not giving up on OB hospital effort

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is not giving up on plans to build a hospital in Olive Branch.

David Baytos, senior vice president/CEO of Mississippi and international healthcare services, says Methodist will ask the State Department of Health to approve the project.

Health facilities in Mississippi need state permission to operate. A so-called “certificate of need” usually is issued by the Department of Health.

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In rare cases, facilities try to bypass the normal certification process and seek the Legislature’s permission to open.

Methodist had tried just that. A bill that would’ve authorized the acute care hospital in Olive Branch died in the 2009 session.

Baytos says Methodist’s chances of approval are better if the state Board of Health revises the CON process and criteria for new hospitals as planned.

DeSoto County is part of what health officials have described as the hospital bed-rich Mississippi Delta region. They’ve refused to approve a hospital in Olive Branch — about 13 miles southeast of Memphis — because many of that region’s existing hospital beds aren’t used.

Proponents of an Olive Branch hospital think DeSoto should be taken out of that district because local residents don’t typically go to the Delta for hospital care but instead go to closer hospitals in Memphis or to Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven.

A Board of Health proposal would put DeSoto County into a health care district with Tate, Tunica, Marshall and Panola counties. Officials said that would greatly improve the chances for an Olive Branch hospital.

The Board of Health is scheduled to meet July 8 to vote on the CON changes.

If the changes are adopted, Baytos said Methodist will file its application when they are allowed.

“We are hopeful,” Baytos said of the CON changes. “The revised plan would allow counties such as DeSoto to add a new hospital.”

Baytos said Methodist could know by the end of the year if their CON has been approved or not.

“We’re very committed to this process of establishing the hospital in Olive Branch,” Baytos said. “We’re very impressed with the people of Olive Branch and their desire to have a hospital.”

Methodist spokeswoman Ruth Ann Hale said Methodist would again go to the Legislature in 2010 if the CON changes are not adopted.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that,” she said. “We’re not giving up though.”

Methodist Healthcare has proposed construction of a 276,000-square-foot, four-story, $151 million acute care hospital on a 20-acre site at U.S. Highway 78 and Bethel Road in Olive Branch by January 2012.

Alliance HealthCare System and Baptist Memorial Health Care, two area hospital groups, have opposed Methodist’s CON application in the past.