Hospital signals good things for the area’s future

Published 12:26 am Sunday, November 8, 2015

Our 2-year-old is practically a professional sightseer. Anna is not all that big on travel, mind you, she simply likes seeing things — the more familiar the better.

For many months one of her favorite things to do is spot familiar scenes as we drive around town.

Large animals were the first to catch her eye — the pig at Pig Out Inn, the cow on the building at the end of Canal Street.

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Later big buildings became familiar — our church, Subway (her favorite eating-out lunch spot) and most important — the hospital.

Spotting and identifying what is now Merit Health Natchez was a big deal. It’s a huge building and one that her not-yet-3-year-old mind can easily grasp.

“That’s the hospital, Anna,” I recall saying at the time. “That’s where you were born.”

What followed that first sighting was a litany of questions.

“Who was there when I was born?”

“Was Mommy there?”

“Were you there?”

Later, my wife Julie compiled some photos for Anna to review from the day of her arrival — Mom holding her moments after she was born, her two sets of grandparents holding up cameras and phones trying to take a first glimpse of the little squirming ball of flesh, nurses checking her out, etc.

Anna was fascinated — and hooked on the hospital.

So it came as no surprise when I mentioned that I was going to the hospital’s open house to see the new renovations last Friday that Anna was all about attending — a bit odd for a 2-year-old, but I went with it.

Our opinion is pretty much any experience for her is a good one.

Anna talked about the hospital open house all day on Thursday.

As she did, we learned her main goal was to see some babies and see where she was born.

By midday, she’d grown concerned that the babies may be crying, and she didn’t want any part of that. We assured her we could walk away if any baby was crying, and her interest remained piqued.

When Thursday night rolled around, Anna was thrilled to get to march up the ramp and into the hospital.

Among the first people we saw was Kay Ketchings, the hospital’s director of marketing.

Clearly a good mom, Kay squatted down to Anna’s level and started a conversation, or at least she tried to start one. Anna had little time for a conversation though; she was there to see some babies.

While we’d warned her that the nursery — one of several areas in the hospital to be renovated as part of Merit Health’s multi-million-dollar investment — might not have any babies, it remained her focus.

As it turns out the babies hadn’t returned from the Natchez Community campus, but will later this week, meaning another field trip is in order soon to satisfy Anna’s motherly instincts.

Clearly the hospital’s work is impressive. The reworked rooms look brand new and all of the finishes make the hospital look better than it has in years.

Much work has gone into the building, and it shows.

One resident who stopped to say hello remarked the hospital looked so good she thought she was visiting someplace else.

She was being funny, but the point was a good one — the hospital is something in which to take pride.

CEO Eric Robinson was there along with his family. He said in passing that he was proud of the hospital’s team and the effort they had made — and are continuing to make — as the hospital renovations are completed and Natchez’s two hospitals merge into one this week.

If you haven’t been by Merit Health Natchez — the former Natchez Regional Medical Center — I’d urge you to spend a couple of minutes looking around. The hospital is in as good as shape as it has ever been. That signals good things for the future of health care in our area, but only if more people commit to giving the facility a try and using it when possible instead of going out of town.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or