UMMC to merge some functions with rehab hospital

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The University of Mississippi Medical Center will merge some functions with the neighboring Methodist Rehabilitation Center under an agreement approved Thursday by higher education officials.

The changes will take effect in stages over several years, and the two organizations will remain separate overall.

“We’ll be able to offer services for brain and spinal injury and stroke that are second to none,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for UMMC.

Methodist will spend $5 million to renovate its third floor to host UMMC’s inpatient rehabilitation unit. UMMC plans to move the 25-bed unit into Methodist after two years, adding them to Methodist’s 60 inpatient beds. UMMC will hire a handful of Methodist physicians and nurse practitioners as faculty members. Some of the 40 UMMC employees at the inpatient unit may join Methodist’s 550 employees, but no job losses are expected.

“They’ll run the hospital and we’ll run the professional services,” Keeton said.

The state Health Department’s certificate of need board must approve the spending.

Methodist CEO Mark Adams said his organization sought links with UMMC to expand research into treating neurological injuries. He said more patients and the ability to offer faculty appointments at UMMC will make a joint operation more attractive to physicians and researchers, bringing more innovation.

“Clinical research here drives our clinical program,” Adams said. “It keeps us on top of the latest advances.”

As part of the deal, UMMC will study creating an institute for neurological and related physical disabilities. Methodist has agreed to pay $100,000 a year toward the salary of the institute’s leader and pay part of the academic costs. Methodist and UMMC will hire a consultant to help plan the institute.

Keeton said the agreement saves UMMC from spending $8 million to build its own new rehabilitation to replace its aging building. UMMC originally created an inpatient rehabilitation unit because Methodist wouldn’t accept certain indigent and Medicaid patients, but as part of the agreement, Methodist will follow UMMC’s charity care policy.

Keeton said the university also wants to create a department of physical medicine and rehabilitation as part of its medical school, though that could take years. Such a department would train medical residents at Methodist. Some UMMC occupational therapy and physical therapy students already train there.

UMMC and Methodist will continue to be separate organizations and run separate outpatient rehabilitation programs, though Keeton said he’d like to discuss combining outpatient programs later. Methodist’s long-term nursing home in Flowood won’t be affected. Adams said Methodist wants to stay separate in part so its focus on neurological rehabilitation won’t get lost in UMMC’s much larger operation.

“We think the independence of Methodist Rehabilitation is important to the way we operate,” he said.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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