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Regional cath lab gets OK

NATCHEZ — Natchez Regional Medical Center has completed the first step toward re-opening a heart catheterization lab, but opening the doors to the cath lab could be a lengthy process.

The Mississippi State Department of Health Board received applications for a certificate of need for a cath lab from both NRMC and Natchez Community Hospital, and made a recommendation in favor of Natchez Regional.

“The purpose of it is that you don’t duplicate equipment that drives up prices,” NRMC Board Attorney Walter Brown said. “Before you spend a certain amount of money, you have to establish a need.”

Community Hospital has a 20-day window from May 17 to request a public hearing, and CEO Donald Rentfro said the hospital would request a review, so they can provide the best health care to the Miss-Lou that it can.

“We still believe that we are an appropriate site for a cath lab,” Rentfro said. “We want to continue the research process, and I believe that does include a hearing.

“It just gives all parties the opportunity to state their position.”

Brown said a public hearing could tie this matter up in court for a year or two.

Regional CEO Lana Morgan said this recommendation brings the hospital one step closer to being the regional care center that the hospital wants to be.

“(A cath lab would) keep people from having to go out of town for this test,” Morgan said. “Since more people will be able to stay in town, they will not end up shopping out of town.

“It will help keep people’s business in town.”

Cardiologist Dr. Brad LeMay said 60 percent of cardiovascular care is currently leaving Natchez.

“That is a good number of patients having or choosing to go elsewhere for things they see as important,” LeMay said. “This is the first step. If we can keep those patients, it helps both hospitals.”

Brown said NRMC had three points in its favor. The first point is that NRMC has all of the equipment in place. Secondly, NRMC has a cardiologist on staff and the backing of the Jackson Heart Clinic. Thirdly, the analysis reports that NRMC has larger community support for the project, based on 30 letters received by the board.

A cath lab scans images of arteries to determine if there is any blockage. LeMay said the hospital would provide the diagnostic services, but would not be able to provide the interventionist services, such as surgeries.

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