August 8, 2008

Olive Branch Hospital Gets Support — Public Health Committee Chairman Promises to Back City’s Efforts to Gain Approval

By Toni Lepeska

A key player in the state process for getting new hospitals approved gave his blessing to having one in Olive Branch during a meeting with local elected officials Thursday.

State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, also promised to fight alongside hospital proponents to de-politicize the approval process.

"I really want to do something up here," said Holland, sitting among the mayor, aldermen and two Republican state representatives in the City Hall conference room. "I think your numbers justify it."

Holland is chairman of the state House Public Health Committee. If he opposed a hospital, there would be little chance that efforts to tweak the law to get one in Olive Branch would succeed.

For years, supporters have pushed state legislators for changes in hospital certificate procedures so that Olive Branch could get a hospital.

Having failed on the legislative level, they're now back at the administrative level but working with a different makeup of the Board of Health.

Methodist Healthcare has applied for a license to build a 100- bed, $150 million facility in the Olive Branch area. Staff comments on that application are scheduled to be heard by the Board of Health this month.

The application is expected to be opposed by Baptist Memorial Hospital, which operates a 339-bed facility in Southaven.

In making application and working to change the law, hospital proponents are using a two-pronged attack to make Olive Branch's wishes come true.

"I don't know what to tell you, but number one, you certainly don't need to give up the fight," Holland said. "Someday we'll get it. ... When I get behind a bill, I intend for it to pass."

Holland wants to de-politicize the process and eliminate the Certificate of Need - required from the Legislature or State Board - and "just let the market dictate."

Holland suggested that hospital proponents turn to their neighbors in Byhalia, in Marshall County, to add support to the request for hospital approval. A hospital in Olive Branch could serve them too.

Mayor Sam Rikard said though city officials have been meeting with legislators in Jackson, the face-to-face meeting here was helpful.

"He's a key player in the process," Rikard said.

- Toni Lepeska: (662) 996-1409

Originally published by Toni Lepeska [email protected] .

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