OUR OPINION: Oxford hospital to expand services

By NEMS Daily Journal

Oxford and Lafayette County’s $60 million-plus sale of the facilities comprising Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi to the hospital’s Memphis-based corporation will clear the way for Baptist to build a new, $250 million hospital in Oxford – a major development with strongly positive expectations.
The Oxford, Lafayette County and regional economies will feel a positive impact beginning with construction and follow through to the operation of a technically advanced hospital with additional physicians, employees and services.
Wages and tax revenues will spin off the new Baptist-North Mississippi.
The sale had been under discussion and in negotiation for two years. Oxford and Lafayette County will split the money, and both have indicated that at least part will be invested for later public use. A final signing is expected Aug. 18.
Baptist-North Mississippi, as the Oxford hospital is officially known, is part of a Memphis-based health care system operating 14 hospitals in west Tennessee, north Mississippi, and northeastern Arkansas.
Health care is not only an essential service, it is an economic engine, and in small, non-metropolitan cities like Oxford, cycling through of health-care dollars has major impact.
Substantial research shows that health care provides 10 to 15 percent of the jobs in many rural counties, and with the secondary benefits of those jobs, health care can account for 15 to 20 percent of all jobs.
It is commonly understood that businesses consider location, schools and health services the most important “quality-of-life factors” influencing investment choices.
In addition, a strong health care system also attracts retirees, a notable and continuing success in Oxford’s fast-growth category.
Baptist has leased the hospital from the city and county since 1989, spent $160 million on expansions, developed the hospital into a regional referral center.
A 2007 economic impact study by the Mississippi Hospital Association found that Baptist North Mississippi provides more than 1,200 jobs and has a total economic impact of $165 million a year in Oxford.
In 2011, the Mississippi Nurses Association named the Baptist North Mississippi the Hospital of the Year (hospitals of 100 licensed beds or more).
The Oxford hospital has 217 beds, a number that would be the minimum sought for the new hospital, but 250 could be possible.
The hospital’s board must follow an official Certificate of Need process with state health officials before the hospital can be built.
Baptist and North Mississippi Health Services’ Tupelo-based system are competitors, but the region is stronger because it has two high-profile systems and advanced care.