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Published in CenterView on October 07, 2013
Grenada Lake Medical Center employees, from left, Dr. Jarriet Ting, hospitalist; Kathy Beck, chief nursing officer; Sarah Longest, chief information officer; Pam Chandler, ER manager; Molly Brown, administrative director/risk manager; and David Putt, advisor to the vice chancellor at UMMC and GLMC’s interim CEO
Grenada Lake Medical Center employees, from left, Dr. Jarriet Ting, hospitalist; Kathy Beck, chief nursing officer; Sarah Longest, chief information officer; Pam Chandler, ER manager; Molly Brown, administrative director/risk manager; and David Putt, advisor to the vice chancellor at UMMC and GLMC’s interim CEO

GLMC partnership combines small-town charm, state-of-the-art medical resources

By Matt Westerfield

Kathy Beck, who graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing in 1987 and lived and worked in Memphis for some 17 years, has spent a good bit of her adult life in large cities.

Vicky Braswell, left, and James Tindall, center, GLMC nurses, with Dr. Joe Roberts, chief of staff
Vicky Braswell, left, and James Tindall, center, GLMC nurses, with Dr. Joe Roberts, chief of staff

But when she had the opportunity to settle down with her family in the small Mississippi town where she attended high school, she seized it.

Beck has been the chief nursing officer of Grenada Lake Medical Center since 2000 and is proud to be a part of an institution that supports and is supported by the surrounding community.

“When we were in Memphis, we didn’t know our neighbors’ names, but here you know everyone and everyone knows you,” she said. “You want to hold your head up and you want for people to say they received the best treatment here.

“It’s like taking care of family.”


Amber Harris, left, and Kathy Beck
Amber Harris, left, and Kathy Beck

In August, UMMC entered an agreement with the Grenada County Board of Supervisors to lease the 156-bed Grenada Lake Medical Center, a partnership that will provide GLMC with management and advanced-care support while in return create opportunities for UMMC to stretch its services and education mission to meet the needs of rural Mississippians.

UMMC officially began managing the hospital Sept. 1, working closely with the county-appointed board of trustees, said David Putt, GLMC interim chief executive officer. On Jan. 1, 2014, the Medical Center will begin leasing GLMC.

Under the 20-year agreement, UMMC will pay about $1.8 million yearly to retire GLMC’s $37.4 million debt. Eager to make the transition, participants on both sides of the deal have already begun calling the hospital UMMC Grenada.

“What we’re probably going to do over the next three months is a community health needs assessment,” said Putt. “We’ll meet with our own employees and the physicians in the community to get their input. Then we’ll take that information and use it going forward to create a strategic plan.”


Robert Bowen, CT technician
Robert Bowen, CT technician

The original Grenada Hospital was founded in 1923, but after changing ownership and moving to a new location, the Grenada County Hospital was opened in 1967 with a capacity of 96 beds.

Over the years, the facility grew, acquired the county ambulance service in 1977 and changed to its current name in 1986. In 2009, a $22 million expansion was completed that included a critical care unit and a tower of 45 patient rooms, which also doubles as the facility’s handsome façade.

Grenada has a population of approximately 13,000, but is the closest medical center for many more in the surrounding counties. It’s situated halfway between Jackson and Memphis, 45 miles from Batesville and approximately 50 miles from Oxford. The hospital treats an estimated 1,500 patients each month in its emergency department.

“It’s an extremely positive development for the community,” said Pablo Diaz, executive director of the Grenada Economic Development District. “The community at large is receiving UMMC with open arms and very optimistic about what the future will bring.


Mark Turner, radiologic technician
Mark Turner, radiologic technician

“We see health care as one of the top economic drivers in our community, and we’re looking forward to working with UMMC and helping them achieve their goals.”

The hospital has approximately 400 full-time and 50 part-time employees. During this four-month management agreement, that work force will be transitioned to UMMC employee practice models.

Beck, who has spoken with many retired nurses who came through the hospital’s former nursing diploma program, said she’s heard stories about the facility’s humble beginnings.

“The old building had a fence in front of it with a cattle gap,” Beck said. “I asked the retired nurse why was that? And she said, ‘The first duty of the nurse in the morning was to milk the cows for the patients’ milk.’”


Jayla Greer, left, Megan Haley, second from left, and Bobby Vaughn, center, ICU nurses, and Janet Buntin, respiratory therapist
Jayla Greer, left, Megan Haley, second from left, and Bobby Vaughn, center, ICU nurses, and Janet Buntin, respiratory therapist

While GLMC nurses no longer milk cows, Grenada still is a very rural setting compared to Jackson. Although educational programs will take a while to establish, UMMC’s health-professional students will gain a new location to rotate through and get a taste of community health care, one of the major advantages of the partnership.

“It’ll be a good opportunity for residents getting the feel for a small community because it’s different from an inner-city practice,” said Dr. Joe Roberts, chief of staff at GLMC, who worked in Albuquerque, N.M., and Little Rock, Ark., before moving to Grenada in 1995. “Grenada is a great place to practice medicine.”

“I believe it's good for GLMC because it gives us the opportunity to bring certain medical services to their market that were not available to them before, such as Telehealth services” said Kevin Cook, CEO of University Hospitals and Health System. “They also have some unique components, like their ambulance service, that add to our institution as well.”


Roberts agreed that Telehealth is one new element of the collaboration that can be a huge help for the staff.

“Especially in the ICU,” he said. “We can take care of most everything here, but it’s nice if you have a difficult patient to have a pulmonologist, critical care specialist (at UMMC) that we could consult with and they could see the patient and also reassure family members.”

On that point, he said some patients will be able to remain in Grenada who otherwise would have to be transferred to UMMC, freeing up valuable bed space in Jackson.


Cook said the stability of a large integrated health system like UMMC will strengthen a smaller organization like GLMC. The agreement also will help the Medical Center continue fulfilling its mission of providing health care to the people of Mississippi.

“My job is to make sure that transition is a smooth one and that we find ways of honoring the differences that a community hospital like Grenada Lake have and find ways to blend the two cultures,” he said.