Mississippi Supreme Courts upholds CON rejection of Madison County campus
In an ongoing grab for market share in burgeoning Madison County, some industry watchers believed it would be a cinch for the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn the Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) rejection of St. Dominic Hospital’s Certificate of Need application to relocate existing acute care beds to Madison.
But that didn’t happen.
The Supreme Court upheld the MSDH’s denial of St. Dominic’s CON application.
“We’re disappointed,” said Paul Arrington, vice president of business development for St. Dominic’s. “We believe it allows a highly unfair and inconsistent decision by the State Department of Health to stand, which results in treating Madison County residents vastly different than Forrest County residents, where a similar hospital relocation was approved.”
In March, the MSDH approved Forrest General Hospital’s CON application to construct, relocate and replace a 95-bed acute care facility at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune. Therefore, Forrest General wasn’t held to the same standard of review as St. Dominic’s Madison CON application, Arrington pointed out, adding the Hattiesburg hospital should’ve been denied. It wasn’t.
“That results in inequitable treatment for the citizens of Madison County and creates long-range concerns about inconsistently administering CON laws and regulations in Mississippi,” he said.
Proponents of St. Dominic’s plan emphasized that Madison County continues to rank among the state’s fastest growing counties, that it remains last in the state with the fewest number of acute care beds based on population, and that more than 85 percent of Madison County residents leave the county for hospital care, despite the opening of Health Management Associates’ (HMA) 67-bed replacement hospital in Canton last year, Madison River Oaks Medical Center.
“We have over 50,000 residents in Madison and Ridgeland who simply won’t drive north for medical care and it’s unfair and unreasonable to deny them medical care close to home,” said Carl Crawford, chairman of the 67-neighborhood Madison Organization of Neighborhood Organizations, calling the Supreme Court’s decision “disappointing news for the homeowners and families of Madison.”
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins echoed Crawford’s letdown.
“We’ll continue to support St. Dominic’s as a dedicated friend to our area,” she said. “Treating the health needs of citizens in one county differently than those of Madison’s citizens is simply wrong and unacceptable.”
While St. Dominic’s continues to study the decision to determine its next steps, Arrington said healthcare leaders at the 535-bed tertiary care hospital in Jackson remains committed to working within the department’s regulatory framework and process to address the need for improved access to healthcare in Madison County.
The current CON battle in Madison County mirrors similar challenges between the metro Jackson’s major hospitals that have been ongoing for decades. In the 1990s, St. Dominic’s and Baptist Hospital in Jackson successfully lobbied against HMA’s CON application to open a hospital on Interstate 55 in north Jackson. HMA then eyed Madison County and began building a case to have a CON application approved there.
Similarly, after a decade long fight with private practitioners and Baptist Hospital (a different healthcare system than in Jackson), Memphis, Tenn.-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare earned a CON from the MSDH in 2010 to build a 100-bed hospital in DeSoto County’s Olive Branch, one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties. A year earlier, Methodist had unsuccessfully circumvented the MSDH via a bill introduced by state lawmakers. It wasn’t until changes were made to the CON application process before the MSDH granted the healthcare giant approval to build.
SIDEBAR: Pending Certificate of Need Action
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Certificate of Need Program Report in March, the following activity was pending review at the scheduled May 31 CON meeting. (The April CON meeting was cancelled.)
- Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale’s $3.9 million renovation and expansion of its radiology department.
- South Sunflower County Hospital in Indianola’s $8.8 million renovation and swing bed project.
- Singing River Hospital’s amendment/cost overrun of $3.4 million, bringing the total to $11.2 million, for construction and electrical services upgrade to its modular chiller plant and pipe bridge project.