- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Work could begin by the end of the year on a $180 million expansion of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s hospital for children, officials said Tuesday.

Vice Chancellor LouAnn Woodward told the Health Affairs Committee of the College Board Wednesday that fund-raising is nearing a point where work can begin, even though the 10,000-employee medical center has been hit by a budget shortfall.

The new tower would be a major expansion of the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, one of the hospitals on the medical center’s Jackson campus. It would take the current neonatal intensive care ward and create individual private rooms, where parents could stay near their child more comfortably. The new building would also include a pediatric intensive care unit, operating rooms and imaging devices designed especially for children.

Woodward told trustees that the medical center is trying to protect long-term priorities, even after the 10,000-employee institution announced last month that it was laying off 195 employees and cutting 85 vacant positions to close a $32.7 million budget gap.

“What we have tried to do is not allow some of these immediate pain points to impact the long-term growth,” she said.

Woodward said the medical center will ask trustees next month to approve a $440,000 contract for a construction manager to begin aiding in planning. Trustees, though, said they wanted more information on how the medical center would pay for the project before approving borrowing and spending.

“I’m wondering, are we really to the point where we can go ahead with this?” said trustee Alan Perry of Jackson.

The medical center is trying to raise $100 million of the $180 million from private donors. Woodward said donors have already pledged $53 million and that another $20 million in pledges are expected before the end of the year. The medical center could use some of its $234 million cash reserve to pay for construction until pledges are paid.

The school has requested that state lawmakers provide $30 million, borrowing $10 million a year over three years and repaying the debt with state appropriations. So far, lawmakers have provided only $6 million. The Legislature adjourned earlier this month without approving a yearly borrowing bill.

“The biggest question for us is what level of support we might get from the state,” Woodward said.

Woodward said the medical center would likely borrow the remaining amount of the $180 million on its own and repay it using general revenue. She said the medical center would study how much debt it can afford before borrowing.

___

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/JeffAmy .

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide