Hospital leaders join forces through committee

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — A new health care organization seeks to find a cure for the public’s perception of feuding between local hospitals.

The Miss-Lou Regionalism Health Care Committee aims to foster a spirit of healthier competition for the sake of keeping patients in town. And the big guns from each local hospital seem to be on board.

Representatives from Natchez Regional Medical Center, Natchez Community Hospital, Vidalia’s Promise Hospital, Ferriday’s Riverland Medical Center and other health care organizations have been meeting to identify challenges and draft solutions for health care in the Miss-Lou.

“Everyone is in agreement that it’s time for a change,” Promise Hospital Director of Physician Relations and Education Sarah Smith said.

Smith, who also serves as the committee’s chair, said the group has identified long-term and short-term issues facing Miss Lou health care.

Short-term issues include educating the public about local health care options, increasing local physician referrals, organizing joint ventures among local hospitals and improving physician recruitment, which will hopefully prevent patients from traveling out of town for health care.

Smith said other issues, such as quality and recruiting, are long-term goals.

To encourage physician-to-physician referrals, the group proposed a Miss-Lou Medical Society and after hours social events to allow local physicians to meet, which should start this fall.

“(Doctors would) have a chance to get to know each other and feel comfortable referring patients,” Smith said.

Other committee ideas include a daylong health care expo sponsored by each hospital or pharmaceutical companies. The expo would educate the public about local health care services and issues, and give citizens a chance to know what is available to them.

Vidalia Convention Center director H. L. Irvin volunteered the center for the location of the expo. The event would likely include physicians delivering educational talks, outdoor activities and informational booths sponsored by a variety of medical services.

And free lunch, of course.