Supervisors and CHS have charted a course and are working to improve healthcare in Clarksdale.
CHS (Community Health Systems) bought Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center from Curae last summer and finalized their lease with Coahoma County Supervisors in January. CHS is one of the nation’s leading operators of acute care hospitals and owns 10 hospitals in Mississippi, managing them under the name of Merit Health.
Steve Dobbs, Merit Health CEO, met with supervisors Monday to request the county address five projects or plans for the hospital. Supervisors agreed to two and tentatively agreed to the other three changes that will reduce costs for the new owners.
The county owns the facilities and property known locally as Northwest Regional and is leasing it to CHS. The county had a similar arrangement with Curae.
Changes to the lease requested by Dobbs are:
• Removing the glass solarium along the front of the hospital.
• Moving the Hicks Healthcare trailer off property behind the hospital.
• Giving the 3,000 square-foot nursing school back to the county.
• Giving 12.1 acres of land on Ohio Avenue back to the county.
• Tear down and remove the Flowers Wing.
Dobbs said these properties are not in the long-range plans for the hospital. He said the buildings and property named are older and in need of repairs his company does not see as feasible.
“The glass in the Solarium has degraded and ventilation is a concern and it should come down,” said Dobbs. “We want to keep the land where the trailer is and we want you to take the nursing school. The Flowers Wing was built in 1960, it’s not usable and we will remove it.”
Board attorney Tom Ross asked Dobbs to give some kind of legal description of what Merit wanted to do and details that would define when each one of these projects was finished.
Board President Johnny Newson asked some kind of artist rendering be provided so the county could see what Merit’s changes would ultimately look like.
The board voted to remove the Hicks’ trailer and assume ownership of the 12-acres. The board discussed using the trailer as a voting precinct somewhere else and leasing the land to a farmer who owns land adjacent to the hospital.
“We just want to know you want to move forward,” said Dobbs. “Work to address the Flowers Wing will be substantial.”
Ross said the county has discussed these changes for several months and reports prepared by Merit would be part of the record and explain why Merit was seeking these changes.
The board said they would be glad to formally vote on Merit’s three other requests as soon as details were worked out.
These changes are a big hurdle for the community and mark a visible investment and plan by Merit.
“Patients are Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center’s top priority and we are committed to providing a safe environment of care,” said Northwest Regional Administrator Joel Southern. “Physicians, nurses and all providers on our staff have much to be proud of and much work is being done to strengthen our hospital for the future.”
Southern said a comprehensive five-year plan of capital projects has been developed to strengthen the facility and will act as a roadmap for the hospital’s continued success.
“A critical part of being a sustainable healthcare organization is keeping resources focused on patient care,” Southern added. “We appreciate the Coahoma County Board of Supervisor’s consideration of our request for projects to reduce the lease. Their approval will help us minimize non-essential work and expenses that do not contribute to the delivery of quality healthcare services.”