- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KOSCIUSKO, Miss. (AP) - Attala County will keep its hospital.

Baptist Health Systems will start operation of Montfort Jones Memorial Hospital June 1.

Troy Hodges, president of the Attala County Board of Supervisors, tells The Clarion-Ledger (https://bit.ly/1En8E2z) the hospital would have closed without the backing of the Baptist Health System.

“It would have closed real shortly,” Hodges said, “there’s no question.”

In the past 12 months, the hospital had laid off 38 employees - 24 of which were either nurses or certified nurse assistants - and closed its intensive care unit. Operating capital was drying up, and closure was inevitable.

“They’re just not getting enough money in, and they’d gotten behind on vendors,” Hodges said of the county-owned facility,” Hodges said.

“We were shocked, to say the least,” he said. “Things had gotten really bad.”

Shortly afterward, the county issued $1 million in bonds to help the hospital meet payroll and pay its vendors. Legislation that would have authorized an additional $5 million in bonds died in the session that ended earlier this month.

The $1 million Attala County issued wasn’t enough, and “we couldn’t just keep handing out money to them,” Hodges said. The most recent $1 million in bonds was on top of $6 million the county authorized a few years ago to fund renovation and expansion of the facility.

Bond payments for the expansion will last another 22 years, matching the term of Attala County’s agreement with Baptist.

Starting June 1, Montfort Jones will become Baptist Medical Center-Attala with 120 employees. “We’ll operate it as a 25-bed hospital,” Baptist spokesman Robby Channell said.

The facility will carry a critical-access designation. That requires a hospital have no more than 25 beds and be located in a rural area. A Baptist press release said its focus is to ensure the community has access to a range of acute hospital services. Patients who need specialized care will be referred to Jackson’s Baptist Medical Center.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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