The Baptist burn center staff is largely comprised of administrators, doctors and nurses who previously served under Dr. Derek Culnan at the now closed center at Merit Health Central.
The Burn, Hand and Reconstruction Center, which is housed at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, has received their designation as an official burn center from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). CEO Bobbie Ware made the announcement on Thursday, also noting that Baptist was designated a Level Three Trauma and Pediatric Center.
The burn center designation process took roughly nine months, according to John David Smith, Vice President of Outreach and Education for the burn center.
“It’s been a long nine months but through it all we’ve just done what we’ve been trained to do. We are thankful that the state finally designated us,” said Smith. “It’s back to work for us.”
The burn center is led by Medical Director Dr. Derek Culnan. One of the most interesting elements in its inception is that the center is comprised of roughly 50 employees that worked under Dr. Culnan at the former burn center located at Merit Health.
In October 2022, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Merit Health Central was closed. After the closure, Dr. Culnan and many of the former staff decided to open a new burn center within Baptist Hospital. Dr. Culnan told Magnolia Tribune that following the review one nurse expressed her amazement at this dedication of the staff to their cause.
“I’ve been a practicing nurse for several decades,” Culnan said the nurse told him, “And she couldn’t imagine following any doctors across the street let alone following a doctor to launch a totally new program.”
The burn center has been operating in some capacity since November 2022, roughly a month after the doors to Merit Health’s burn center closed.
As of today, the center has had 2,220 clinic visits, 1,070 operating room visits, 462 burn patients, 927 total patients and 127 pediatric patients. Aside from two specific pediatric cases, Dr. Culnan says the center has not had to refer patients elsewhere.
The review process conducted by MSDH included a physician, nurse and reviewer from the agency. The burn center gave a presentation on their current operations at Baptist as well as discussed plans to continue to develop their program of work. The review team then offered useful suggestions, but nothing the team at Baptist did not expect to hear.
“It was definitely a win to be designated, but going back to issues with that or deficiencies noted, there was nothing listed that we were not already aware of and were in the process of dealing with,” said Robert Sutton, Program and Clinical Director.
Some of the suggestions mentioned included the development of a registry system, which is already in the works, and joining the trauma system within Baptist.
While the designation process was tedious, Dr. Culnan said he welcomed the experience.
“I really enjoyed having those folks coming in to take a look at us and make sure we are taking a good hard look at ourselves as well. I look forward to more of those reviews as we continue to develop our program out,” said Dr. Culnan.
He noted the importance of continued review processes from external bodies, saying it ensures everyone is doing what is needed to provide the best possible care for patients.
Dr. Culnan said the center is actively working to add laser treatment within the next few weeks. This will help patients with extensive, and often old, scaring in joint areas that are causing additional problems. The laser treatment will help soften scar tissue and allow more flexibility in those areas. This type of treatment is primarily prioritized for pediatric patients and is not currently a common resource in the state of Mississippi.
“It can provide good improvement for patients and prevent them from being a patient as often. It makes a huge difference for these people,” said Dr. Culnan of the laser treatment.
Burn center designation has been sought after by at least one other hospital in the metro area, that being the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). MSDH has said that the approval of UMMC was not a recommendation that the facility be deemed “the state burn center,” as MSDH is allowed to designate other healthcare providers as a burn center.
During the 2023 session, lawmakers were split between UMMC and Baptist as to where the new “state burn center” would be designated. That decision was ultimately left up to MSDH and the State Health Officer.
UMMC received their designation by MSHD in April 2023. However, a March report showed the facility did not fully meet the criteria. The report indicated that UMMC failed to meet nearly a third of the criteria required to be considered a state burn center. A corrective plan of action to address the issues is in place.