Guest Column: Merit Health River Region Remains Steadfast in Service to Vicksburg and Warren County

Published 10:50 am Monday, August 2, 2021

By Benjamin Richaud | Chief Executive Officer for Merit Health River Region

I write today with hope for the future and gratitude for the resilience of our provider teams at Merit Health River Region. 

The pandemic has demonstrated how interconnected we all are, the impact each one of us can have and the benefit of working together for a common cause. We care deeply about our community and remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver safe, quality healthcare services. 

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The arc of life is always present in a hospital, but its frailty has been very clear this past year. Thousands of patients received the medical care they needed thanks to our physicians, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, lab techs, housekeepers, food service workers and other providers who have worked tirelessly to maintain a safe environment. Our family of caregivers put aside their personal fears and concerns and came to help every single day with bravery and courage.

More than 300 babies took their first breaths and we celebrated with their moms. More than 65,000 walked away in better shape than when they came in — with less pain following a joint replacement, a heart beating in rhythm after receiving a pacemaker or a smile of relief when their screening mammogram or colonoscopy was clear. 

With pride and relief we cheered hundreds of patients who left for home after beating COVID-19. But there have been times of sadness too as our caregivers helped patients transition at the end of life and comforted the loved ones who grieve for their loss.

Helping people get well and live healthier is rewarding work and we are grateful for the trust every patient places in us. And we feel the support of the community as you’ve extended your thanks and encouragement through prayers, meals, treats, notes of encouragement and more.

Led by a local administration and advisory board of community leaders and physicians, we are putting our resources toward increased medical services, facilities, and technologies that are important to our patients. Services are being enhanced with the recruitment of several new additions to our medical staff: Dr. Phillip Azordegan, Neurosurgery; Dr. Constance Barnes-Woods, Pediatrics; Dr. Joshua Holifield, General Surgery; Dr. Matthew Knight, General Surgery; Dr. James Stanford, ENT and Dr. Cody Tipton, Orthopedic Surgery/Sports Medicine. Leah Johnson, NP and Rebekah Ostoj, PA are new additions in our OB/GYN clinic. Also, many of our physicians are now offering telemedicine, making it easier than ever to see the doctor when you’re in the comfort of home. 

We value our relationship with Vicksburg and Warren County. The more than $7 million in taxes we paid last year support critical infrastructure such as first responders, schools, and roads. Wages and benefits for our provider team generate buying power for local goods and services and help drive the local economy. And we deliver care for our most vulnerable residents, last year providing more than
$53 million of charity and uncompensated care.

Hope is on the horizon as COVID-19 vaccinations are underway and we look forward to a time when we can all gather. Until then, keep up the safe practices — wear a mask or face covering, maintain social distancing, and regularly wash your hands. By following these simple acts we can do extraordinary things.