Ribbon cut on new Highland site

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Highland Community Hospital officials, along with local government and civic leaders, Sunday afternoon cut a ribbon, marking completion of construction on the brand new $55 million state-of-the-art medical hospital and facilities — Highland Community Hospital — which will revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered in Picayune, Pearl River County and Southwest Mississippi.

An estimated 1,000 visitors crowded into the foyer of the huge facility to first watch the ribbon cutting and next hear a few short speeches by dignitaries. The large crowd toured the three floors of the facility. And even more poured through the facility during the rest of the evening to view the new complex. It was an open house.

The ribbon cutting ceremonies Sunday showcased the facility to residents. The complex will officially open for business at 6 a.m. on July 28, according to Highland Administrator Mark Stockstill.

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By July 28 all operations will be relocated to the new facility on Hwy. 11 North in North Picayune. There will be no operations or services offered in the old facility on Goodyear Boulevard. The move to the new facility will be complete.

The new hospital is expected to reconfigure everything in North Picayune, even traffic patterns and shopping and living. A combined shopping-residential complex is planned by developers near the new facility.

The move marks the biggest expansion of the hospital here since the early 1950s when the old hospital on Goodyear Boulevard was first constructed. It was known then as Crosby Memorial. Forrest Health Systems, which also owns Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, later acquired the hospital and renamed it Highland Community.

Officials said on Sunday that the new hospital will serve a large sector of South Mississippi. The Highland facility, since it is so large and will offer extensive medical care here, will impact the entire Southwest Mississippi area, officials said.

Already health officials have recruited three new doctors who plan to locate here and practice in the wake of the new hospital’s opening, and there will be more, officials said.

Officials were blunt in speaking to the press. They said they wanted South Mississippians to “stay home for healthcare,” said Forrest Health System’s CEO Evan Dillard.

In remarks before the tour began, Stockstill told residents, “This is not ‘a’ hospital; this is your hospital; love it and support it, just as we do. . .You can stay home for high quality, state-of-the-art healthcare now. . .”

He added, “The real heroes in this are the Highland staff and employees who believed in this vision and have lived it each day. Without you, this just would not work. I have never been more proud to work with such a group of committed people.” Highland will employ 318 at first and then gradually hire more as the hospital gradually expands.

Stockstill said the new hospital is a “quantum leap” in providing state-of-the-art healthcare to Southwest Mississippi.

He also thanked local political officials, the Carle Cooper family for donating the land, and Roy Anderson Co., who built the facility. The structure is the biggest building in Picayune and is huge, rising three stories.

It is impressive. It has been in the planning and construction for three years, but calls for its construction go back further, said Stockstill.

The emergency room alone has doubled in size in the new facility. The hospital officials expect to handle about 20,000 ER visits the first year, and expect the calls to rise to between 30,000 and 40,000.

The facility will have 60 in-patient beds.

Said Dillard, “I want to congratulate Mark and his team, the Highland team, who helped make this happen. These people believed in Highland when it was really tough going. They stood with you and with us. We are glad to be a partner with you; and yes, it really happened. Thank you for your patience, and this will be a patient-centered care facility.”

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., told the audience that Highland is a “cog that will make everything else in Picayune happen.”

Said Pinero, “I want to thank the strong leadership in Forrest County and in Pearl River County that made this happen. In order to make this kind of investment in a community, you have to see a strong future, and this hospital will be the cog that brings everything else together here in Picayune.”

Officials said that Highland when in full operation will offer more services than ever. The 60 in-patient rooms are spacious and private, much larger than standard hospital rooms.

State-of-the-art equipment and furnishings are located in every area of the facility, providing a setting compatible with the latest trends in healthcare, officials said. One piece of medical diagnostic equipment cost $1 million, the Item reported earlier.

Officials added that the new hospital features an expanded Emergency Room that is double the size of the original ER. The new emergency care department’s layout is designed to minimize the patient’s time from door to doctor, including three minor care treatment rooms.

Patients and staff will also benefit from additional space for surgery, diagnostic testing such as x-rays and for expectant and new moms and their babies.

New medical office buildings also offer convenient access to physicians with a variety of specialties.

Said Stockstill, “I believe this new, state-of-the-art facility is a quantum leap forward in delivery of high quality, safe and efficient care in Pearl River County. The new Highland will set the tempo for future growth and development of the community.”

Officials said anyone wanting to know more about Highland can call 1-888-280-1151 or visit highlandch.com.