VOL. 126 | NO. 163 | Monday, August 22, 2011
By Aisling Maki
Along with new housing developments, restaurants, and retail and entertainment establishments, recent population increases have brought expanded health care services to outlying counties.
Kellie Kilpatrick, left, holds a friend’s hand as he is wheeled into the ER at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto. The hospital has recently upgraded its trauma center as part of its added coverage in the county.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
DeSoto County in Mississippi is a prime example. Its population grew 50.4 percent between 2000 and 2010, from 107,199 to 161,252, and is expected to reach 172,226 by 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto opened in 1988 as a regional, referral, acute care hospital with about 250 employees. Today the hospital is an 11-story tower with more than 1,800 employees, making it the county’s second-largest employer after DeSoto County Schools. The hospital discharged 9,762 patients in 2002. In 2010, it discharged 16,143 patients, according to Baptist.
Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care, which already has six hospitals in the Memphis metro area, also is expanding its presence in DeSoto County with the construction of a new $137 million hospital in Olive Branch that is expected to employ about 480 people. The four-story hospital with 100 beds will be at U.S. 78 and Bethel Road, in the eastern part of the county near the Marshall County line. Because of its location, Adams said hospital will likely serve a different population, for whom it’s more geographically convenient.
Methodist won approval from the Mississippi Department of Health in July, and Ruth Ann Hale, Methodist director of media and community relations, said Methodist will break ground on the Olive Branch hospital sometime this fall, at a date yet to be announced.
Ginger Adams, who has served as executive director of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce since 2005 and previously worked for Baptist DeSoto, said the growing medical offerings in DeSoto are important for the county’s residents.
“We can have quality health care close to home,” she said. “We went from having to go to Memphis for all of our doctors. We had to go 45 minutes away, and now we can travel 10 minutes. We have pretty much all the services we need. We are very proud to have this kind of health care in our community. They’ve grown with the community and added services based on the population needs.”
Baptist DeSoto has one of the busiest emergency departments in the Mid-South. The average hospital treats 15,000 emergency patients; Baptist DeSoto last year saw 55,757. Of those, 12,880 patients arrived by ambulance and 395 were trauma arrivals. The hospital’s trauma status was recently upgraded to handle more.
“Our goal is to meet the immediate needs of our community, and the raised trauma status from Level IV to Level III will allow us to plan strategically for growth,” James Huffman, Baptist DeSoto’s CEO and administrator, said in a statement earlier this month. “We are celebrating our 23rd year as a hospital in DeSoto County this year and our 100th year as a hospital system in Memphis next year. We are looking forward to making Baptist DeSoto the primary destination for nine local ambulance services with our new trauma designation.”
Adams said the improved quality of health care in DeSoto County has helped attract more companies to the county, and it was instrumental in the certification of Southaven as a state of Mississippi certified retirement community. She also said the city continues to see more doctors’ offices moving into the area as a direct result of the hospital’s growth.
“If you look at the hospital expanding, that whole Airways-Goodman corridor has expanded with physicians offices,” Adams said. “They all want to locate near the hospital.”
North of Memphis, Tipton County has experienced a growth of 19.1 percent, from 51,271 in 2000 to 61,081 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A spokesperson for Baptist said its community hospital in Covington, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton, hasn’t grown over the past few years. But Tipton County Chamber of Commerce executive director Lee Johnston said the hospital’s administration works to actively recruit top-notch physicians, and has increased the quality of care and brought in state-of-the-art technologies so residents don’t have to travel to Memphis for diagnosis and procedures.
“Our local administrator knows that the county will be that much better off with good local health care,” Johnston said. “We have industrial parks out here and one of the things first things they want to know is how close our nearest hospitals are. It’s a big plus for us.”