By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi’s goal of announcing a site for the proposed new hospital by year’s end will likely have to wait for 2012, but negotiations are reportedly in final stages.
“The site selection process for the new hospital is still under way,” said Don Hutson, CEO and administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi. “We are working diligently to ensure that the location for the new regional referral center is the best possible site for Oxford and Lafayette County.”
Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., which had leased the existing facility since 1989, proposed the new hospital, saying the 13-acre site on South Lamar Boulevard was obsolete and too landlocked for expansion. The Memphis-based corporation negotiated for more than two years before buying the current hospital for $60 million in August, splitting the price between Lafayette County and the city of Oxford, which had jointly built the hospital in the early 1960s.
Baptist has pledged to invest at least $250 million, not including land costs, in the new hospital, with plans to strengthen its role as a regional referral center attracting patients from across much of north Mississippi.
The proposal raised intense controversy late in 2010 and into early 2011 when it was learned that Baptist had used a phantom corporation to buy more than 100 acres of land west of Oxford on Highway 6/278.
Public criticism focused on the location’s distance from the current medical community and the city’s several residential rehab institutions and the dangerous and often congested intersection through which all traffic to the site would have to be funneled.
Baptist officials eventually agreed to limit its site selection process to locations within the current city limits.
“As soon as the site is selected we will share this exciting news with the community,” Hutson said.
Jondi Roberson, the hospital’s director of marketing and provider relations, said, “It could be any day now.”