Highland Community Hospital, PRC Hospital and Nursing Home not closing

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

“The only thing we plan on doing is growing and focusing on quality healthcare.”

That was the message shared by Highland Community Hospital’s Regional Administrator Bryan Maxie in response to a report released by Navigant listing the Picayune hospital as one of many rural hospitals as being in “high financial risk.”

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That report lists three categories as the basis for that rating; operating margin, days worth of cash on hand and debt to capitalization ratio. Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home was also rated as being in high financial risk.

The report was released on Monday, and used to create a bleak picture for local hospitals in regional news coverage.

“It’s been a tough week,” Maxie said.

He said he has been meeting with the administration of the various hospitals he oversees after that report was released to address concerns and rumors that the hospitals under Forrest Health will close.

Maxie’s statement is clear, “We should be named as a facility that is growing.”

Maxie said the Picayune based medical facility has the backing of Forrest Health, which owns Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Highland Community Hospital in Picayune and several other facilities in the state. He points out that Forrest Health invested more than $50 million to build the Picayune facility, and has already purchased or plans to purchase another $1.6 million worth of investments in the form of equipment and facility upgrades.

In addition to purchasing state of the art mammography machines costing $300,000, new surgical equipment totaling $1 million and performing $300,000 worth of upgrades to the surgical department on the upper floor, the hospital is adding urology care and hiring four nurse practitioners, a new OBGYN, surgeon and a pediatrician. The new medical professionals will join the already 230 full time equivalent employees already on staff. Those new employees will not only bring more care options to the area, but invest in the community by making it their home, Maxie said.

He added that the facility has already undergone a number of changes suggested by the Navigant report, such as creating electronic records, and has had the backing of a larger company since it was renamed Highland Community Hospital years ago.

However there are hurdles. Maxi said that recent changes by the federal government restricting government funding and the fact that there is a problem with residents heading south and across the state lines for health care that is offered here does make it harder for Highland to be profitable.

What the community can do is support the hospital by utilizing the services that are close to home, he said.

A statement from Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing home also states that the medical facility “is steadfast in its resolve to maintain this hospital.”

PRC Hospital and Nursing Home also has hurdles, one of which is paying back “the previous administration’s billing errors,” which causes the hospital to “reimburse (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) several million dollars through monthly deductions from Medicare payments to the hospital, which has had a severe impact on cash flow,” according to an emailed statement.

However the statement from PRC Hospital and Nursing Home gives a positive outlook in that steps are being taken to improve the facility’s financial outlook. Examples include providing specialists with access to telemedicine, establishing more lucrative contracts, improving productivity and seeking value added services that would be more profitable.

“We are amazed every day by the compassion and innovative spirit that will continue to ensure our availability to serve Pearl River County,” the statement says.