HIghland will get new hospital

Published 6:44 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

Construction of Picayune’s new hospital is still moving forward, though it was stalled by the current economic atmosphere.

Members of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors and Forrest General Hospital’s board of directors met with members of Picayune’s City Council and Pearl River County’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday to update them on the current status of the new Highland Community Hospital. Part of that visit involved a look at the construction site off of U.S. Highway 11.

Evan Dillard, president and CEO of Forrest General Hospital, said the visit was to alert this county’s leaders on the progress that is taking place on the new hospital’s construction. He said construction of the hospital was put off for a time due to the current state of the economy, which made it hard for them to get a loan during the past 14 to 16 months.

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There is a need for a new hospital in this area, and Forrest General and Forrest County are willing to invest in that need. He said Forrest General gets enough referrals from Highland Community Hospital to employ 240 people at Forrest General.

“When you look at it from that standpoint, that’s an investment for Forrest County,” Dillard said.

Now that a financial reassessment has been completed and it has been established that the debt to profit ratio for Forrest General looks good, the project can move forward.

Dillard said the next step will be to seek an architect to work up some drawings and other necessary documents that will be used to set a price to construct the new facility. New site drawings will need to be made, since the ones on file are now a year and half old.

Once all of those procedures are completed, hospital representatives will take a trip to Merrill Lynch by Dec. 14, to seek a loan. Dillard expects construction to begin about 18 months from now. By February or March, Dillard expects to receive the final, approved drawings. At that point, the costs to build the hospital could be estimated.

“It’s not if we’re going to do this, but this is where we are in getting this project done,” Dillard said.

When construction gets underway, he said the construction of the office building will take place first, with the hospital’s construction to begin soon afterwards.

“It’s definitely a go deal,” said George Boone, a member Forrest General board of directors.

Pearl River County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said he was glad to see the progress presented in the discussions and signs that the new hospital is still moving forward. He said this move will create a dramatic change in health care in this county.

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. said the Thursday meeting reflecting the move forward is encouraging.

Highland Community Hospital Interim CEO Doug Jones said when the new hospital is built, the old one will be returned to the owners from whom Forrest General is leasing the facility.