- Associated Press - Thursday, January 22, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Two hospital systems are partnering to expand pediatric specialty care services in Tupelo and the north Mississippi region.

A ribbon-cutting was held Wednesday for Children’s of Mississippi-Tupelo. The clinic will open Friday.

University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo are partners in the specialty clinic.

“We think that we can take the some couple thousand children that need in-patient health care services that have to leave the market for those services,” said Shane Spees, the CEO of North Mississippi Health Services, which owns North Mississippi Medical Center.

“We think through our collaboration with University Medical Center we can keep some two thirds of those children here locally,” Spees said.

Dr. Rick Barr, who heads the UMMC pediatrics department, said children who have needed specialists in the past have often had to travel to Jackson, Memphis or Birmingham for care.

“We don’t want children to have to leave their home or Mississippi to get care,” Barr said.

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Salwa Gendi and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Jessica Lilley, who both began seeing patients in Tupelo in 2014, will be based in the clinic.

UMMC is currently recruiting another cardiologist and endocrinologist. A second hospitalist is set to arrive this summer.

UMMC and NMMC expect pediatric specialists to rotate through the clinic.

NMMC will continue its partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

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