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Gulf Coast Medical Center in Biloxi Closes Emergency Room

by Keith Burton - GCN 10/8/07

If you call the emergency room at the Gulf Coast Medical Center in west Biloxi, don't expect an answer. That's because the hospital has shut down its emergency room, effective today.

The owners of the hospital, Health Management Associates, Inc. (HMA) of Naples, Florida, announced about a month ago that they were going to close the emergency room at the 189-bed hospital, located just off of Debuys Road. HMA says the emergency room closure was to consolidate operations with the Biloxi Regional Medical Center, which the company also owns.

In a press release issued to the news media when the announcement was made, officials with Gulf Coast Medical Center cited high costs of operation and a population shift that has reduced its customer base. Still, the closure of this centrally-located hospital just south of the CSX railroad tracks between Gulfport and Biloxi will be missed. Emergency services are to be picked up by Biloxi Regional in downtown Biloxi and Gulfport Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, miles away. This will add as much as ten minutes or more to the travel time of some medical emergencies.

According to a Sun Herald news story on the hospital's announcement, ambulance drivers will transport all patients east of DeBuys Road and south of Interstate 10 to Biloxi Regional Medical Center. All patients west of DeBuys Road and south of Interstate 10 will be taken to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.

Ever since Katrina, the Coast has had a shortage of surgeons and other medical personnel. All of the hospitals have been running advertisements seeking physicians and medical support workers. There is also concerns that the increase in immigrant population and high general medical insurance costs, which has left many people without insurance, may have played a role in the company's decision to shut down their emergency room. Patients without insurance will now seek out the remaining hospitals.

HMA purchased the Gulf Coast Medical Center in June, 2006 from the Tenet Healthcare Corporation. HMA operates 59 hospitals in 15 states.

GCN contacted the Mississippi State Department of Health, which regulates hospitals in the state, regarding the emergency room closure and received the following statement via email:

"The closing of the emergency room at Gulf Coast Medical Center is a voluntary closure and not due to any regulatory action of MSDH. MSDH received notice on August 31 that Gulf Coast Medical Center in Biloxi was being acquired by Health Management Associates, Inc. (HMA). HMA is the same company that owns Biloxi Regional Medical Center. In the notification, the Department was advised that Emergency Services of Gulf Coast Medical Center and Biloxi Regional Hospital were being consolidated to provide more effective and efficient healthcare services to Gulf Coast residents. MSDH will continue to inspect the facility to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements."

Calls to the hospital for a comment on today's closure of their emergency room were not returned prior to GCN's posting deadline. In addition, neither the hospital's nor HMA's websites mention the closure of the emergency room.

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