No more Natchez Regional: It’s Merit Health Natchez

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New signage hangs on the face of the old Natchez Regional Medical Center building. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

New signage hangs on the face of the old Natchez Regional Medical Center building. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The Natchez hospitals announced Monday the adoption of new names as they were integrated into a larger health care system and began working as a single unit with two locations instead of two separate hospitals.

Natchez Regional Medical Center will now be known as Merit Health Natchez, while Natchez Community Hospital will be known as Merit Health Natchez — Community Campus.

The Merit Health brand is a 12-hospital network in Mississippi affiliated with Community Health Systems. CHS subsidiaries purchased both Natchez hospitals separately in 2014.

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A Merit Health news release said joining the network will allow hospitals and health systems to better combine strengths and resources to exchange best clinical practices, operate more efficiently, expand services and improve access to care.

“Becoming part of Merit Health and the state’s largest healthcare network complements the work we are doing to create a single, strong hospital for Natchez by expanding the resources and expertise we can offer our community,” Merit Health Natchez Chief Executive Officer Eric Robinson said.

“With the start of renovations and other consolidation efforts taking place, the timing is perfect to begin working together as a unified entity committed to the delivery of healthcare for our Mississippi residents. Moving forward, we will operate as one hospital with two campuses until the consolidation is complete.”

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said Robinson called him Monday to give him a heads-up about the name and network change.

“I had a little bit of humor with him on the phone. I said, ‘Just now in the last year have people started referring to it as Natchez Regional instead of Jefferson Davis Hospital — about 30 years from now people might accept the name change,’” Brown said.

The mayor said he thought the change would help make the continued work of consolidation less confusing for residents and would help distance the former Regional facility from its past.

Regional was sold last year out of bankruptcy. It was previously owned by Adams County.

“I think (the name change) is a wise thing,” Brown said. “This is system wide what they are doing —and we are just a part of the system now — but I think had they not done it as part of a system, then certainly a name change would have been in order. I am sure there are a lot of people that will like and embrace the name change moving forward. I think that is a good piece of marketing strategy for the company.”

Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson said the common naming helps bring the community together around the unified hospital.

“It helps distance everything from the politics of the past,” she said. “(Merit) is a well-respected group, not unlike Oschner, and this move is establishing, ‘We are this.’”

The Natchez hospitals were joined in rebranding and integration into to the Merit network Monday by hospitals in Batesville, Biloxi, Amory, Clarksdale and Hattiesburg.

Prior to Monday, the Merit Health system included six health care centers in Jackson, Canton, Brandon, Flowood and Vicksburg.

Merit Health Natchez will host an open house in the lobby area of the former Natchez Regional campus from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tonight.

Work to consolidate the two Natchez campuses into a single, 99-staffed bed hospital began this month. The former Regional campus is licensed for 179 beds, while the Community campus — which is partially owned by a group of doctors — is licensed for 101-beds.

The two hospitals have a combined average daily census of 80 occupied patient beds.