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Mississippi Dept. of Health deems UMMC...

Mississippi Dept. of Health deems UMMC as official burn center

By: Sarah Ulmer - April 13, 2023

University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

During the 2023 session, Lawmakers were split between UMMC and Baptist as to where the new state burn center would be designated.

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has deemed the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) as an official Mississippi Burn Center.

MSDH is responsible for reviewing applications and licensing an approved burn center location. According to their spokesperson, UMMC has received that designation but so can other healthcare providers.

MSDH says their approval of the UMMC application is not a recommendation that they be deemed “the state burn center,” despite the name UMMC Mississippi Burn Center.

However, some lawmakers see this approval as an indicator that UMMC will indeed be viewed as the state’s burn center.

“While I believe UMMC has the ability to function as a burn center, I believe the better choice would’ve been Baptist [Medical Center],” said Senator Kevin Blackwell (R), Chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee, regarding the announcement. “The news release stated that the MSDH representatives toured UMMC. I’m wondering if they also toured Baptist. I, along with Senators Parker and Polk toured both facilities and met with their respective staff and based on those visits and conversations, I personally felt Baptist would’ve been the better choice.”

Sen. Kevin Blackwell (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2021. The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

During the legislative process a House Bill, HB 469, was presented that specifically named Baptist as the preferred burn center by lawmakers. Other pieces of legislation were also offered in which the Senate removed the Baptist language and replaced it with UMMC. All of the bills ultimately died but Blackwell said he believed it was the intent of the Legislature to lean towards Baptist.

“So, in the end we have a state agency picking another state agency. Sounds like a little bit of home cooking to me. In my opinion, the state should not be competing with the private sector. But that is exactly what is happening,” said Blackwell.

A line-item appropriation of $4 million was made in the MSDH budget bill for the future designation of a burn center. This bill also gave MSDH and the State Health Officer authority to name the state’s burn center.

The law indicates that even if MSDH specifies an official state burn center, it does not prevent other healthcare providers from establishing one.

UMMC has been operating a burn center on its Jackson campus since January. This was in response to the closure of Merit Health Central’s burn center in South Jackson. Merit Health Central closed on October 14, 2022. JMS Burn and Reconstructive Center included 13 burn intensive care patient rooms, 20 burn step down unit rooms, and a 12-room outpatient clinic. They were capable of caring for adults and children.

At the time, CEO of Merit Health, David C. Henry, said the pandemic caused additional challenges for the hospital. Ultimately, they had difficulty recruiting specialists that were needed to maintain the program. Henry said this was the primary reason the center was shut down, after opening in 2008.

UMMC is the state’s only academic hospital and home to the only Level 1 trauma center. According to a release from UMMC, the physicians there specialize in emergency medicine, trauma surgery, as well as plastic surgery, critical care, laboratory medicine, mental health, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

“We are pleased that the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been deemed qualified to provide the level of multidisciplinary care required for burn treatment,” said Dr. Peter Arnold, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. “The depth of medical skills and resources of an academic medical center make UMMC uniquely qualified and an ideal location for burn treatment in the state.” 

UMMC will continue to develop the center, with a goal to earn accreditation from the American Burn Association.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: