New Albany hospital hopes to triple E.R. capacity

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

NEW ALBANY – Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County officials are asking the Mississippi State Department of Health to authorize a new emergency department.
If the state approves Baptist’s certificate of need application, the plans calls for a $12 million, 20,000-square-foot extension on the south side of the hospital. Rather than expand on the existing emergency room, it would give the department a completely new facility with 22 patient examination rooms compared to the existing seven rooms.
Hospital Administrator Walter Grace said BMH-UC now averages several hours faster than the national average for emergency visits but that more rooms will improve even that time.
“We see patients on average for about two-and-a-half hours, start to finish,” he said. “We’ll be able to see more patients more efficiently.”
The plan is not aimed at changing BMH-UC’s trauma center rating, Grace said. Like the majority of hospitals in Northeast Mississippi, it is rated Level IV. (Hospitals in Corinth, Oxford and Starkville have Level III trauma centers, while the one at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo is rated Level II.)
What is pushing the need for expansion is growth in the number of patients seen.
“We’re on track to have about ER 25,000 visits this year,” Grace said. “It’s growing about 7 to 10 percent a year.”
The planned addition will take over what is now physician parking and move the emergency entrance to the south (back) side of the hospital.
“It’ll be a brand-new, one-story facility,” Grace said. He added that plans have not been made yet for how to use the existing emergency department space.
Any proposed timeline for the project is necessarily a flexible one.
“We hope to be able to build in nine to 18 months assuming we get approval from the state,” Grace said. “But nothing is certain yet. This is all preliminary.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com