I had the pleasure of visiting Grenada Monday afternoon for a tour of the hospital and a reception put on by the local business community.
Having grown up one county over and attended school in Grenada, I always get that good feeling of coming home when I visit.
It's going on two years since we began managing the former Grenada Lake Medical Center, and just about 18 months since we began a 20-year lease in January 2014.
Grenada is a small town by some standards - about 14,000 people -- but for a lot of residents in that part of the state, it's the biggest town around, and so it's where many of them go to shop, buy a car or - for that matter - go to the hospital.
Grenada has other natural advantages, including its location adjacent to I-55 and Mississippi's largest lake. From our perspective, Grenada is also at the northern edge of what we would consider our primary service area, so it's well located. It has a long history of producing distinguished physicians, many of whom graduated from our medical school.
Indeed, the best thing Grenada has going for it is its people. From the very first meeting we had about possibly acquiring the hospital, we have been enthusiastically embraced by the medical and business community. The pride they have in their town is contagious.
Their hospitality was on full display at the reception Monday evening. I can't possibly name everyone, but Jimmy Brown and Keith Mitchell of Regions Bank once again made their beautiful building available to us. Dolly Marascalco, the outgoing president of the Chamber of Commerce, was there. And we've had support all along from Chad Bridges, Michael Lott and the rest of the Grenada Board of Supervisors, School Superintendent Dave Daigneault, President Jim Haffey of Holmes Community College, and many more. Good people and a great turnout.
Prior to the reception, I was able to squeeze in a quick tour of the hospital. It was late in the afternoon so I didn't get to interact with as many staff as I would have liked, but I appreciate that those I met made me feel welcome.
I'm pleased to see the progress we've made under CEO David Putt's leadership. A number of renovation projects have been completed or are under way, so the hospital is looking spiffy. We have new leaders in place, including Chief Nursing Officer Carla Stanley, Chief Financial Officer Scott Whittemore and Director of Ambulatory Operations Dewery Montgomery, and we've settled into a nice arrangement where our top-level administrators are shared between UMMC Grenada and UMMC Holmes County.
The headline for me, however, is the recruitment of new physicians. Eleven have joined the medical staff since the lease went into effect, and plans are in place to add about that same number during the next year or so.
Among the new arrivals are Dr. John Speca, orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Hubert Spears, general surgeon. Having these two services available in Grenada is already making a huge difference. Dr. Spears, in particular, has been a game changer for us.
I also want to recognize our veteran Grenada medical staff, some of whom have been real champions through this transition in ownership. Truly, we couldn't have taken this on without their support.
As we knew going into Grenada, the change in the fortunes of its hospital will be a gradual process. Once vibrant, the hospital had been in decline for a number of years. Some residents had lost confidence and were seeking their health-care services elsewhere.
I'm confident we've turned that around. During the next couple of years, we will add more physicians and offer more specialty services. We'll have more linkages to UMMC in Jackson, including satellite clinics, telehealth services and telemetry monitoring through our eICU program. In time, I hope, we will incorporate residency training and other educational programs so we can begin "growing our own" health professionals for that area.
I'm proud of what "Team Grenada" has accomplished so far. We have much work ahead of us. But we've made a good start, on our way to A Healthier Mississippi.