Natchez Regional considers radiology change

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NATCHEZ — As early as today the Natchez Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees could vote on a contract that would change radiology services at the facility — it could also do damage to one longtime Natchez business.

Dr. Ray Brown, a radiologist at Radiology Associates of Natchez, said for the past 50 years the company has been handling NRMC’s radiology needs and the needs of several local hospitals.

When a local hospital needs radiology work done, it’s sent to either Brown or his partner Dr. Fred Emrick.

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Radiology Associates of Natchez then bills either the patient or their insurance company.

“Fifty years we’ve been doing this and not one cent paid by the hospital,” Brown said.

But Regional’s Vice President of Medical Affairs Ken Stubbs said a contract with Comprehensive Radiology Services, in Hattiesburg, has the potential to bring great benefit to Regional.

Stubbs said should the board of trustees decide to contract with the group, it would mean radiological readings could be read more quickly and some procedures that patients leave town for could be done in Natchez.

Stubbs said in some cases mammography readings from RAN can take up to two weeks to be returned to the hospital.

While Brown said one week is not unusual, Stubbs maintains it results should be available more quickly.

But with a new team of radiologist that can screen mammograms from Hattiesburg, that time could be reduced to just hours.

“Doctors who think this will hurt the hospital just don’t understand,” Stubbs said. Additionally, Stubbs said the CHS contract would provide Regional with an interventional radiologist than could perform some biopsies, and other procedures, for which patients are currently leaving town.

Brown said not only would the contract eliminate approximately one third of his business, but also he believes it would also drive business to Hattiesburg, not Natchez.

“This is not going to help us, or Natchez at all,” he said addressing his fears of loss of business for his practice and the city.

Stubbs said the if the board votes to contract with CHS it hospital policy will prevent the facility from executing that contract for 60 days, at which point Brown will have an opportunity to formally object to the contract.

Stubbs said the only costs associated with the new contract will be the costs associated with connecting Regional and CHS computer systems.

Stubbs did not know the cost to connect the two facilities.