Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center’s board of trustees met last week to discuss purchasing equipment and contracting employees as part of its partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Southwest CEO Charla Rowley said the hires were not out of the ordinary and were meant to help expand the hospital's care coverage.

“Some of it is contracts to fill in for others. Some are to add additional staff and some were to renew,” she said. “Most of it is for physician assistances to help with call coverage (and) to help in our ER in Lawrence County.”

The hospital renewed one employee’s contract in radiology, contracted three new part-time physicians who work at UMMC, hired a full-time physician, hired two nurse practitioners and renewed a contract with another nurse practitioner at Lawrence County Hospital, entered an agreement for relocation and tuition expense reimbursement and repayment for a nurse.

The board also approved provisional staff status with privileges in obstetrics and gynecology for a physician, approved emergency staff status to a physician with privileges of an emergency medicine Class III physician, authorized a consulting staff status for a radiology physician, approved an allied health staff status for a certified registered nurse anesthetist, a surgical assistant and a perfusionist. Trustees also reissued consulting staff status for five physicians in tele-radiology

“We’ve been working through the clinical affiliation with UMMC, so several of these were to get surgery on call and have some take calls for us,” she said.

The board also agreed to hire a neurologist whom UMMC provided.

“We are going to have a neurology clinic once a week, so we contracted for them to provide us that neurologist starting in August,” she said.

She said all of these hires are to expand hospital services to keep as many patients in the hospital campuses without having to transfer for other hospitals unless completely necessary.

“We are just trying to do what we can to be able to add services to keep our community here and not have to go somewhere else and drive,” Rowley said, noting additional upgraded machines will help this as well.

Rowley also mentioned the addition of seven new ultrasound machines, which would replace the old equipment, along with upgrades to the hospital's MRI machines and different software throughout the hospital.

“We are upgrading to make them all new. It is still going to be the same amount of machines, but they will be all brand new,” she said.

Rowley said the new updates to the MRI machine allow for better imagining overall, making diseases like prostate cancer more visible.

“It will allow us to do additional procedures. In the past, we didn’t have that technology,” she said. “(The upgraded machines) will give doctors a more clear picture and let them see in denser tissue.”

Rowley spoke about the state of the hospital during an interview Friday, noting that SMRMC was in a better spot than other hospitals in the state and hoped it will stay that way.

Rowley said the hospital has plenty of bed space, but the problem state-wide is staffing. She said she was pleased with the attitude of the hospital staff during the pandemic.

“They are all really holding strong and doing so good,” Rowley said of her staff. “It’s been a challenge, but this is a great team of people, and that is a lot the difference between us and bigger cities. Our people have buy-in. This is their hospital, so it is not as hard for us to get people to work an extra shift.”

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