Although three of the largest hospitals in Mississippi objected, the state board of health voted 5-4 last month to allow smaller hospitals to request certificate-of-need approval for cardiac catheterization and open-heart surgery services.
The new plan will allow under-served minorities and the poor to receive treatment for heart disease at hospitals closer to where they live, said Edward Thompson, M.D., the state's health officer. Dr. Thompson also said Mississippi has the highest rate of heart disease in the nation and that blacks don't have adequate access to services.
But large hospitals in the state that operate large-scale heart programs don't see it that way. A spokesman for the hospitals said allowing more hospitals to offer heart services will reduce quality of care and increase costs.
"We will see lower volumes of patients, which could impact quality but will also increase cost," said James Cox, an attorney who represents the hospitals.
Those hospitals are 616-bed Mississippi Baptist Medical Center and 444-bed St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital, both located in Jackson, and 685-bed North Mississippi Medical Center, Tupelo.
However, hospitals that don't offer the services believe the objecting hospitals just want to protect their turf and revenues. Tom Harper, administrator for 280-bed Methodist Medical Center in Jackson, said more heart programs will increase competition and improve the quality of services. Mr. Harper said Methodist intends to apply for a CON to develop the heart programs.
Under the new proposal, hospitals may apply for the services if they treat more than 100,000 patients annually. The old plan required 200,000 treatments per year.
Hospitals must apply for CONs by July 1.