By Tommy Reynolds
Those of us who choose to live in the rural or small town areas deserve excellent healthcare, just like the folks in Mississippi’s metro areas.
I am very pleased with the progress that our local Tallahatchie and Yalobusha County hospitals have made in the last few years, and we are all mindful of the tremendous economic benefits and jobs that these facilities provide for our area.
I am also very pleased that the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) is now poised to help residents in the Grenada area have additional access to healthcare through the benefits offered by the UMMC health care operation.
The UMMC is in serious negotiations with Grenada officials on a lease agreement with Grenada Lake Medical Center, the Grenada county-owned hospital. If the lease arrangement is completed, transitioning operations will begin immediately with a full start of UMMC programs to be available by Jan. 1.
I believe that this development will be a good deal for Grenada County and for all citizens of north Mississippi.
We can expect the most up-to-date technologies from UMMC’s central campus in Jackson, and medical leaders in their field will be able to reach into the local facility, teaching and helping guide local patient care.
Residents of the area will no longer need to travel to Jackson or Memphis to receive specialized healthcare in many fields, but if they choose, they can receive treatment only a few miles away. UMMC specialized personnel will be available at the Grenada campus of the UMMC, which is what the Grenada Lake Medical Center will become.
I am very pleased that in today’s changing healthcare climate this type of arrangement can help keep Grenada hospital not only strong, but also make it even stronger for greater service for the people of Grenada and north Mississippi.
Other important factors are at play in the expansion of the UMMC service area to rural Mississippians. Two bills that I strongly supported and helped pass during the recent Legislative session will help create a larger pool of physicians for rural counties.
Currently, UMMC has the capability to graduate a class of only 135 medical doctor students per year. Senate Bill 2913 provided a bond authorization of $31 million to expand the school’s training facilities to accommodate up to 200 graduating physicians per year. Also, additional nurses and other healthcare professionals will be trained at this facility.
This measure passed with strong bi-partisan support. The College Board recently voted to request the issuance of the bonds necessary to start the building process which should be ready by the fall of 2017.
Senate Bill 2302, which was the companion to a House measure I co-sponsored, removed a cap on the number of scholarships available to medical students through the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. I was an early sponsor and proponent of this important program, which provides monies to our bright students who wish to practice medicine in rural areas. The expansion of the number of students who can apply for this financial incentive with the promise to practice in our rural areas will provide additional healthcare for our citizens.
Mississippi has the highest doctor-per-patient ratio in the United States of America, and also has high ratios of other healthcare providers to our number of people. Mississippi is leading in the nation in conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which cause high incidences of heart disease, cardiovascular, stroke and an increased incidence of cancer. By adding additional graduates to an already excellent physicians program, we should see a comparable decrease in these devastating health issues.
Please feel free to contact me at my local office at P.O. Drawer 280, Charleston, MS 38921, by phone at (662) 647-3203 or by email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.