River Region update: Cardiac surgery to be available if state gives OK

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2001

River Region’s new hospital on US 61 North. (The Vicksburg Post/MARTY KITTRELL)

[03/13/01] Cardiac surgery will be performed in Vicksburg’s new hospital if state permission is granted, River Region Health System CEO Alan Daugherty said Monday.

Since so-called “open heart surgery” was pioneered, it has only been available in Mississippi in Jackson hospitals.

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Daugherty told members of the Exchange Club of Vicksburg Monday that River Region’s application is before the State Board of Health and the period of time allowed for objections has passed.

Past requests from Vicksburg, when two hospitals were in operation, were denied. If approved, facilities will be equipped for surgeons to perform approved heart surgery and there will be a therapeutic cardiac catheterization laboratory.

The new hospital complex on U.S. 61 North is to open in 2002 as successor to ParkView Regional Medical Center on McAuley Drive and Vicksburg Medical Center on North Frontage Road. Until 18 months ago, the hospitals had separate corporate owners.

The state board may take up River Region’s application for a certificate of need at its April meeting.

“I feel very positive that the board of health will award us the certificate,” Daugherty said. “That’s a huge, huge service to bring here.”

Approval would be followed by a recruitment plan, Daugherty said, to bring in an open heart team consisting of cardiovascular surgeons, heart-lung machine technicians and specialized nurses to perform the procedures and take care of the patients.

Daugherty said River Region officials added a second heart catheterization laboratory to the one in the original plans to handle the growing volume of heart cases as well as the load generated by being able to perform such therapeutic catheterization procedures such as angioplasty to open clogged arteries and placing stints, a small metal cage-like device, to keep the arteries open.

In other comments, Daugherty said River Region has made considerable progress for the move now scheduled for February. Among the actions taken in the past 12 months is the hiring of new physicians including three cardiologists, a gastroenerologist, a family practitioner, a pediatrician and an anesthesiologist, among others.

So far this year, Daugherty said, River Region had recruited and signed contracts with four board-certified emergency room specialists to upgrade the emergency services at the hospital.

“We intend to have seven or eight, I don’t know for sure yet, full-time, emergency room physicians here in Vicksburg,” he said, adding that would be a first for the community and it is an attempt to provide, better and more consistent emergency medical service.

Once the new hospital is open, the emergency room will have 32,000 square feet of space with 23 treatment bays.

Another improvement that is partially in place now, is digitizing laboratory and imaging results, he said. The new technique will allow a physician to call up on a special view box in his office the images produced by such diagnostic procedures as x-rays and various other imaging procedures.

He said some of the equipment has already been installed to allow the people who will be using it to get used to it.

When the move into the new building is made, Daugherty said River Region plans to move those medical specialists who are heavy users of hospital services to the attached clinic building. Some who will be moving first are obstetricians, surgeons and orthopedic specialists.

The primary care physicians family practitioners, internists and pediatricians will remain in The Street Clinic, Vicksburg Medical Center and other clinics.

“I felt it is important that we stay in the community” to provide easier access for patients, he said.

Daugherty also said plans now call for the Vicksburg Medical Center facilities to remain open and house rehabilitation, psychiatric and skilled nursing services.

“The ParkView building. I don’t know yet,” he said, adding he is planning a meeting in May with community leaders to see if an idea for a use for the building can be conceived.

“Something will be done with that building. I’m not going to leave an empty building to become an eyesore,” Daugherty said.