An appeal and a governor's executive order may keep a Jackson, Miss., hospital open into the new year, putting its fate in limbo again.
The 64-bed north campus of Central Mississippi Medical Center was scheduled to close Dec. 31 in compliance with a court order. But weeks before that, the hospital filed an appeal and a separate complaint in Hinds County Chancery Court.
Both legal actions challenge the state health officer's decision earlier this month to deny the medical center's certificate-of-need application (Nov. 22, p. 12). If that decision is upheld, the hospital would become the first functioning facility in the country to close because competing hospitals opposed its CON.
Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice followed up by issuing an executive order to keep the hospital open until the legal issues can be resolved.
Whether he has the power to do so is a question the Mississippi Health Department has not yet figured out.
The court will have the final say in the matter, said Kelly Shannon, spokeswoman for the state health department.
The fate of the satellite campus of Central Mississippi Medical Center has been in question since 1992, when former owner Methodist Healthcare filed the first CON application to build the facility. Since then, through construction phases, the hospital's opening and its purchase by Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates, its two main competitors, 631-bed Mississippi Baptist Health Systems and 571-bed St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital, have fought the CON and taken the battle through the state's court system.
"This executive order was issued to keep the hospital operating," said Robbie Wilbur, a spokesman for the governor. "He issued the executive order because he believes it's the right thing to do for the patients and the community."
Claude Harbarger, president of St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital, said he still believes the north campus should not exist as an acute-care hospital and that the CON denial should be upheld.
In a written statement, Joe Mullany, HMA's vice president for the Mississippi division, applauded the governor's action as a "courageous step."