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VOL. 128 | NO. 167 | Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baptist Still Growing in DeSoto County

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

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Twenty-five years ago, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. built a 130-bed hospital in DeSoto County, Miss., on the site of a former dairy farm.

At the time, the county had more cows than people, and naysayers said Baptist Memorial executives were taking a huge risk. Today, DeSoto County is one of the fastest growing counties in Mississippi, according to Forbes, which also attributed the explosive population growth to growing health care options in the region.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto CEO James Huffman and other supporters help the hospital celebrate its 25th birthday.

(Greg Campbell)

Since 1988, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto has more than doubled in size, from 130 beds to 339 beds. Employment at the hospital has grown from 200 employees to nearly 2,000.

Baptist Memorial executives built the hospital “on faith that the growth of the population in Northwest Mississippi was going to continue to be there,” says James Huffman, CEO of Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto.

“When we got approval from the state to construct a 130-bed hospital, it had basic primary care medical services that you would find in a small rural hospital,” he said. “But the hospital has subsequently grown along with DeSoto County and this whole Northwest Mississippi Corridor.”

Population growth in the Northwestern Mississippi corridor has fueled multiple additions and expansions at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, including everything from cancer care to cardiology. That means more patients can receive medical care that is closer to home, rather than having to make the trip to Memphis for treatment.

“When you are that ill, it’s difficult to travel,” Huffman said.

Jamie Tucker, who was one of the first babies born at the hospital, says the hospital has served as both an important employment and health care resource for her family.

When Tucker was a baby, her father was diagnosed with brain cancer and received treatment at the hospital. Her mother was spending so much time at the hospital, that workers eventually helped her secure a job to help the family financially.

Today, Tucker works at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto as a lab technician. She is currently in the midst of a one-year training program that will prepare her to assist cardiologists and nurses in the cardiac catherization lab.

“I love working with people in general and working with patients and my coworkers,” said Tucker, who has lived in the region her whole life. “That’s why I chose health care. The hospital is the main health care provider in DeSoto County. It’s very convenient.”

In addition to providing primary health care and emergency trauma care, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto was ranked the No. 1 heart program in Mississippi in 2012 by HealthGrades. The ranking was based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which showed the hospital’s response time averaged 30 minutes faster than the national best practice benchmark. The hospital also delivers about 2,000 babies per year and provides comprehensive cancer care.

As the entire Baptist Memorial Hospital system adopts medical electronic records from Epic Systems, patients also will be able to seamlessly track their care online from start to finish, Huffman said. The hospital system also has adopted navigators that help guide patients through the complex cancer treatment process, from the earliest detection of a tumor to scheduling a biopsy and radiation and chemotherapy.

“Today, health care is not just a local issue, but a national issue,” Huffman explained. “As we go through massive changes in how health care is delivered, it’s about making care more efficient and providing care in the most cost-effective manner, while eliminating duplication of services.”

Huffman said the adoption of electronic health records and more primary care physicians that are employed directly by the Baptist Memorial Health Care system makes it easier to focus on preventative care for everything from diabetes management to asthma.

“When we are all working in the same structure, we are more efficient and effective at delivering care,” he said. “In the future, there are going to be more people that need care and fewer dollars to provide that care.”

While health care delivery in the past may have focused more on physical buildings, Huffman said future expansion is likely to include adding more primary care physicians and preventative services.

“We hope we don’t need to add additional in-patient beds,” he said. “We are focused on preventing and treating the major causes of death in Mississippi,” including heart and cardiac issues, diabetes and obesity.

Population growth in DeSoto County also recently spurred the opening of Methodist Le Bonheur’s $100 million hospital in suburban Olive Branch. The 60-bed hospital could ultimately employ about 500 workers and grow to 100 beds.

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PROPERTY SALES 41 41 17,762
MORTGAGES 70 70 23,138
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 2 2 4,520
BUILDING PERMITS 163 163 42,320
BANKRUPTCIES 50 50 16,741
BUSINESS LICENSES 14 14 5,795
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